Government should lower prices of airwaves: 5G Forum chief

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NEW DELHI: India must make fifthgeneration (5G) wireless spectrum affordable or risk losing as much as Rs 20 lakh crore, said AJ Paulraj, chairman of the high-level 5G Forum.

“The country’s value for 5G is so high, the government should realise it and make spectrum as cheap as possible,” the Stanford University professor told ET.

Paulraj, a Padma Bhushan awardee, said if the government wants to make thousands of crores of rupees by auctioning newer technology at a higher price, then nobody would use it and eventually the country “could lose as much as Rs 20 lakh crore.”

The US-based scientist is known for developing hi-tech sonar for the Indian Navy and MIMO wireless technology. The Narendra Modi government is preparing for a mega spectrum auction, including frequencies used for 5G services.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended a base price of Rs 492 crore per unit for 5G spectrum, which some experts said was sharply higher than Rs 65 crore per unit at a recent 5G auction in South Korea. The Department of Telecommunications and then the Union Cabinet need to ratify the Trai recommendations. If all the radio waves are sold at the prices suggested by Trai, the Centre may get more than Rs 5 lakh crore.

Low-cost radio waves, according to Paulraj, should be allowed since they were available in abundance.

The telecom department has plans to offer a lot of spectrum and may even open up new bands, he added. In August, the government-driven 5G group suggested an immediate allocation of 405 MHz of sub 4GHz spectrum. “Operators are demanding some improvement in regulation to make it (5G) successful, so we are doing it,” Paulraj added.

The 5G committee also recommended that most guidelines on regulatory matters be promulgated by March 2019 to facilitate early 5G deployment. The next-generation of technology, according to Paulraj, brings immense value and growth for the country. He said the government must spend money to promote the applications.

The 5G Forum has suggested that the department provide financial support to service providers for backhaul deployment, site acquisition, civil works and related operational costs. “In 2G, 3G and 4G, the government had done nothing but only allocated spectrum,” Paulraj said, adding that the current regime would play a role in rolling out 5G technology by developing applications for various sectors.





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