India to push 5G spectrum auction until at least 2021

Published: 13 May 2020 - 9:59 a.m.

The Indian government is to push back its proposed 5G spectrum auction until at least next year, due to the significant disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and operator concerns over pricing.

A report in The Economic Times of India claims that the government will go ahead with the auction of additional 4G spectrum as planned, later this year but will defer the 5G spectrum sale until 2021.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, who were both hit with multi-billion dollar AGR dues by the country’s Supreme Court last October, have both called for the auction to be delayed, as they battle to rein in expenses.

Sources familiar with the matter told journalists at The Economic Times of India that the country’s Digital Communications Commission had met on Monday to discuss postponing the 5G auction.

“Discussions are on to hold the 5G auctions later as some of the telcos need to buy spectrum but 5G may not be the priority now,” a source told the ET.

India will proceed with its 4G spectrum auction, however, as mobile network operators struggle to meet the gargantuan surge in demand for bandwidth. Additional 4G spectrum will help operators provide higher network availability and extend the reach of their networks into underserved rural areas of the country.

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