The modifications have been made part of the amendments to the notice inviting applications for the spectrum auctions slated for March. “In case of switching over to a different technology, while rolling out networks, information regarding the new technology should be given at least six months before any base station is offered for testing,” the amendment said.
If companies are able to secure airwaves in March, they can plan to offer 5G in six months, or around September. However, since the March auction is not selling spectrum in the traditional 5G bands, the 5G capabilities will be limited in terms of maximum internet speed and other performance parameters, sources said.
The sources said the department of telecom is in the process of working out modalities around 5G auctions too, and these may take place over the coming months.
The government wants to understand and gauge response to the spectrum sale in other bands (that is, non-5G) before it takes a call on sale of 5G spectrum.
While all the companies are unanimous in demanding sale of 5G spectrum (in bands of 3,300-3,600MHz and also in 26GHz and 28GHz frequencies), operators such as Airtel and Vodafone Idea have said reserve prices suggested by regulator Trai need to be brought down to ensure a healthy sale.
S P Kochhar, director-general of industry body Cellular Operators Association of India, said the industry is saddled with heavy debt and is passing through a tough financial situation, and requires support from the government through easier charges.
“It (auctions) would be financially challenging. Apart from auctions, the industry also faces major upcoming expenses on infrastructure upgradation like 5G introduction, network expansion, and fiberisation, which is critical for providing future communication services,” Kochhar told TOI recently.