5G technology
Ambani’s conglomerate, which owns Reliance Jio - has already agreed to pay $3b for streaming rights of a coveted cricket league earlier this week. Image Credit: Shutterstock

New Delhi: India’s government on Wednesday gave final approval to a proposal for directly allocating airwaves to enterprises, paving the way for them to operate private 5G networks.

The government also said it would hold the 5G spectrum auction by the end of July. Three private-sector operators - Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd. - are expected to compete as they gear up to roll out ultra-speedy networks.

The federal government plans to sell 72 gigahertz of telecom spectrum for a 20-year tenure, according to a statement from the Ministry of Communications. The auction will be held for airwaves in various frequency bands ranging from 600 megahertz to 26 gigahertz.

“It is expected that the mid and high band spectrum will be utilized by telecom service providers to roll-out of 5G technology-based services,” the ministry said in the statement, without specifying how much the government is looking to collect through the sale.

Affordable 5G airwaves

Ravaged by the cut-throat price competition and the back-dues the government demanded in the past few years, Indian telecom operators have been petitioning to reduce the 5G spectrum’s floor prices. Affordable 5G airwaves will help telecom companies invest in expanding services and ensuring faster network speeds, Mittal, chairman of Bharti Airtel, said in April.

The Cellular Operators Association of India, warned in August that the country risks lagging in the rollout of 5G networks unless the government makes the airwaves cheaper. India is trying to catch up with other Asian countries such as South Korea and China which have had 5G networks for years.

The actual auction collection will depend on how much spectrum is sold and how competitive the operators get.