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Govt should not allow backdoor entry to Big Tech for 5G auctions: COAI

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the industry’s apex body representing telcos, on Thursday urged the government not to allow Big Tech companies to enter the 5G spectrum auction this month via back door channels.

The COAI said in a statement that the 5G spectrum should not be provided on an administrative basis as it leads to no business case for the rollout of 5G networks in the country.

“If the independent entities set up private captive networks with direct 5G spectrum allotment by Department of Telecommunications (DoT), it will diminish the revenue so much that there will be no viable business case left for the telecom service providers (TSPs) and there will not remain any need for 5G networks rollout by TSPs,” said Lt. Gen. Dr S.P. Kochhar, Director General, COAI.

It is important to understand, said the COAI, that licensed access service providers are fully capable of providing these services most competitively and economically compared to private companies.

“Any consideration of administrative allocation of spectrum for such networks is fundamentally against the principles of level-playing field,” Kochhar added.

The telecom industry body further said that it will effectively provide a backdoor entry to big technology players to provide 5G services and solutions to enterprises in India without equivalent regulatory compliance and payment of levies that TSPs are subjected to.

The Department of Telecom has released a notice inviting applications (NIA) for the auction of spectrum in 600, 700, 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2300, 2500, 3300 MHz and 26GHz bands.

The NIA provides explicit clarity on the subject of Captive Non-Public Networks (CNPN).

The last date for submission of application was July 8 and it will give an indication of potential participants for the auction and earnest money deposit on July 20 which will indicate maximum spectrum payout for each telco.

The telcos are allowed to surrender spectrum that will be auctioned after a minimum period of 10 years from the date of acquisition.

Last month, in a big relief to telecom companies, the DoT scrapped the 3 per cent floor rate on spectrum usage charge (SUC).

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