June 4, 2019 / 12:48 PM / 5 months ago

Planned base price of India's 5G spectrum too high - telecom lobby

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, June 4 (Reuters) - India’s top telecom lobby said on Tuesday that the government’s proposed base price for the auction of spectrum for next-generation 5G networks is too high, as India outlined plans to launch the sale process later this year.

The proposed auction price will be a “serious impediment” to the uptake of 5G in India, said Rajan Mathews, director general of lobby group Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

“The majority of our members believe the present proposed pricing of 5G spectrum is unaffordable and above even global discovered prices”, Mathews said in a brief statement.

India’s largest telecommunications companies, including Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Reliance Industries Ltd’s Jio - all members of COAI - are expected to participate in the auction.

Next-generation 5G networks, which can provide data speeds at least 20 times faster than 4G, are seen as vital for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.

India’s Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told media on Monday the newly-elected government plans to commence 5G trials within 100 days and conduct the auction of 5G airwaves in 2019.

The global rollout of 5G technology has been complicated by U.S. sanctions against Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. U.S. officials have also lobbied allies not to use Huawei network equipment in their 5G networks.

Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms network gear maker, has repeatedly denied being controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.

When asked whether India would permit Huawei to participate in the upcoming 5G trials, Prasad said deciding on participation was “a complex question, including security issues”, the Economic Times reported.

Telecom operators have not yet received any direction from India’s telecom department regarding exclusion of any company from participating in 5G trials, Mathews said. (Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Mumbai and Manoj Kumar in New Delhi; Editing by Euan Rocha and Jan Harvey)

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