Mandatory rollout obligations simple, fair, in line with global 5G norms: TRAI official

Telecoms regulator TRAI said the rollout obligations it mandated as part of the latest spectrum recommendations are simple, fair and rational, and fully in line with global 5G norms. Responding to the telecom industry’s view that minimum deployment obligations are a “step backwards” and should be scrapped, a senior TRAI official told PTI that the regulator’s recommendations aim to ensure efficient use of radio waves for the maximum benefit to telecom consumers .

The rollout obligations are reasonable and the logic is well explained in TRAI’s recommendation document, the official said, adding that the minimum rollout obligations are also mandated in other 5G markets. In addition, the network expansion conditions laid down by the Indian Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRAI) are simple and straightforward, the official added.

In addition, the official said that TRAI has a duty to ensure that the benefits of 5G are available not only to service providers but also to customers and citizens, and accordingly the recommendations aim to ensure efficient use of the spectrum.

Failing to impose minimum deployment requirements may lead to under-utilization of spectrum resources, as radio wave pricing has been recommended with nearly 40 percent cut across the bands, the official noted.

Explaining the math behind the rollout terms, the official also pointed out that the regulator looked at the five-year 4G rollout average and prescribed a quarter of those values, which are also spread across different circles for the next 3-5 years . If an operator uses an existing tower or street furniture and adds small cells, that will be treated as a site under rollout obligations, the official added. When asked about mobile operators’ requests for a review of spectrum pricing and other conditions, the official said there was no provision for a review in the TRAI law, even within a week of the release of the recommendations, which were entirely “rational.” . and supported by thorough analysis.

To set the stage for the rollout of 5G services, the regulator earlier this month recommended a mega-auction plan worth over Rs 7.5 lakh crore at a base price across multiple bands for radio waves to be allocated over 30 years.

Overall, TRAI recommended a roughly 39 percent reduction in the reserve or floor price for the sale of spectrum for wireless services, including the latest 5G offering, as it aimed to align revenue expectations with industry payment capacity.

However, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) expressed concern about TRAI’s 5G recommendations, calling the regulator’s proposed spectrum prices “too high” while also opposing the rollout conditions and other nuances. COAI had also said that by introducing mandatory rollout obligations for 5G networks without even considering the huge cost of such a rollout, “TRAI has decoupled from reality and runs counter to government efforts to simplify doing business.” .

“It’s best to let service providers judge by market dynamics when considering network adoption. No operator invests in large amounts in spectrum and network investments and operating expenses without a clear monetization roadmap, and the companies are accountable to their investors and stakeholders,” COAI had said. The industry body has also objected to the allegedly high spectrum prices, urging the regulator to “reconsider its spectrum pricing recommendations”. Mandatory rollout obligations simple, fair, in line with global 5G norms: TRAI official

Chris Barrese

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