These key issues along with finalisation of Spacecom and Satcom policies, need to be placed high on policy agenda for the coming year, Broadband India Forum President TV Ramachandran said. “Widespread and affordable services, including upcoming 5G, is a fundamental requirement… rational and reasonable spectrum reserve prices in auctions will, therefore, be important,” Ramachandran said.

Earlier this month, the government approved a proposal for the auction of 2,251.25 megahertz of spectrum worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore at the base price. The ensuing spectrum auctions, slated to be held by March, will not include bands that support 5G services though; as such no clear timelines have been drawn-up for 5G rollout, yet.

“We have to make affordable spectrum available to operators, which involves probably relook at spectrum rules and the auction design. Without affordable spectrum, users will not get 5G in an affordable way, and operators will not have viability because most of their debt is due to spectrum,” Ramachandran said.

India is a “mobile first” nation, and adequate fiberisation — though desirable and long-term solution — has not happened so far. At the same time, Wi-Fi proliferation in India is lower than other markets”, Ramachandran said, adding widespread 4G and 5G services would require downloading capacities on Wi-Fi as well. “I am very optimistic about PM WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface). I hope that in 2021, we can get to the stipulated target of 2 million public Wi-Fi hotspots, maybe surpass it or even reach double those levels… we need more unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum, along with next-generation technology, which is Wi-Fi 6,” Ramachandran told PTI.

The government recently approved setting up of public Wi-Fi networks and access points by local kirana and neighbourhood shops through public data offices model that will not involve any licence, fee or registration.

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