Addressing the Times Now Summit 2021, the minister stated that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which looks at the structure of auctions, is undergoing consultations on the matter and may submit their report by February 2022.
“I think they will submit their report by February-mid is what we are thinking, maybe February-end, maximum to maximum March. Immediately after that, we will have the auctions,” the communications minister said.
However, he refrained from giving a specific timeline for the auction until Trai submits its report.
“But, today, our estimate is by April-May. I was earlier estimating March. But, I think it will take…because consultations are complex, diverse opinions are coming…,” he added.
The government is keen to ensure that auctions are technology-neutral, and wants to give a spectrum that is consistent for many years to come.
“So, 4G can be used in that, 5G can be used. So, that’s the thinking based on not just short term but more like thinking at least 5-10 years ahead,” he said.
The last round of spectrum auction, held in March this year, had raked-in winning bids of over Rs 77,800 crore for 855.6 MHz of spectrum.
The minister also announced that the Centre is looking to bring a series of further reforms for the sector.
He also noted that the regulatory structure of the telecom sector needs to change in the next 2-3 years.
“India’s telecom sector regulation has to be benchmarked with the global best, so we will come with a series of reforms in this, such that the global benchmark of regulations is achieved in India,” he said.
Vaishnaw said that with major reforms for telcos outlined in September, the government expects the industry to focus on stepping up investments by 2-4 times, reaching out to the unconnected and improving service quality.
“See call drops…classic case, call drops because the investment in the sector is very less, that investment has to step up to 2-4 X. That’s what we need,” he said.
The telecom sector, as such, got a shot in the arm with the government recently approving a blockbuster relief package that includes a four-year break for companies from paying statutory dues, permission to share scarce airwaves, change in the definition of revenue on which levies are paid and 100 per cent foreign investment through the automatic route. The measures, aimed at providing relief to telecom service providers that have to pay thousands of crores in unprovisioned past statutory dues, also include the scrapping of spectrum usage charge (SUC) for airwaves acquired in future spectrum auctions.
Vaishnaw exuded confidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of having a world-class technology stack in the telecom sector will be realized by the middle of 2023.
“All along we have imported technology. Today, our entire network works on somebody else’s.
“So, the fundamental change which will happen is 4G, 5G and 6G this entire technology stack, the hardware as well as software, both will be developed in India, proven in India, then used all over the world,” he informed.
That vision has been achieved for 4G already, and 70-75 per cent of work has been done for the 5G stack.
“The 5G stack is like 70-75 per cent ready. By February, we should have the entire 5G software stack ready.
“Production-linked incentives for telecom manufacturing… 35 manufacturers have already availed it and are in the process of setting up the factories. 6G to begin, that entire process…thinking process, conceptualisation, that task has already been given,” he added.
(With inputs from PTI)