New Delhi: The new Modi government is planning for the largest-ever auction of 5G telecom spectrum, which may help the Centre raise around Rs 6 lakh crore. It will enable the introduction of affordable 5G services, including fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) internet in rural areas.
How FTTH works
FTTH is a form of fibre-optic communication delivery that reaches one living or working space. The fibre extends from the central office to the subscriber’s living or working space. Once at the subscriber’s living or working space, the signal may be conveyed throughout the space using any means, including twisted pair, coaxial cable, wireless, power line communication, or optical fibre. This helps rural consumers as affordability and logistics are issues in that sector.
If examples are to be cited from the world over, the largest 1Gbit/s 0eployment in the United States, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, despite being conducted by power utility EPB, was FTTH rather than FTTC (fibre laid to the cabinet/node, with copper wires completing the connection).
The fibre reaches the boundary of the living space, such as a box on the outside wall of a home. Passive optical networks and point-to-point Ethernet are architectures that are capable of delivering triple-play services over FTTH networks directly from an operator’s central office.
Modi govt’s 5G spectrum push
According to a report in The Times of India, Digital Communications Commission (DCC) — the highest decision-making body on telecom matters — has cleared the plan and the government will auction around 8,600 MHz of mobile airwaves. This is most likely to be done before the end of the year. The latest round of spectrum auction will be for both current bouquets of telecom services and also for new-age 5G services, the daily mentioned.
Telecom secretary and DCC chairperson Aruna Sundararajan said that even if all the spectrum is sold at the reserve price, the government will net at least Rs 5.8 lakh crore. But the government’s idea is not to maximise revenue but to ensure that telecom services become more inclusive.
Meanwhile, DCC asked TRAI — which has already suggested reserve prices for the new round of auctions — to look at reasons for poor spectrum sale in previous rounds.
A top official in the telecom ministry told the publication that TRAI should revisit its entire recommendations to see whether the current recommendations are in line with the PM’s vision of ensuring ‘broadband for all’, as well as driving in an ‘inclusive and social 5G’. “The idea is to ensure that 5G is not only used for smart cars and smart cities, but for other inclusive services such as rural health and education,” the telecom ministry official said.
As the incumbent players in the telecom industry are already in a bad financial state, the government has asked Trai to work out a mechanism that ensures new companies participate in the next round of spectrum auction. “Due to extreme consolidation in the telecom sector, how can Trai ensure competition when it comes to the new auctions? The DCC members felt that spectrum is a valuable commodity and there is no benefit if it remains unsold,” said the official. The government is also in the process of taking steps to begin 5G trials in India.
Although it is not clear if Chinese vendor Huawei can participate in the auction process, the government is trying to ensure that the testing phase is open to a wide spectrum of participants apart from the regular telecom operators (Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea) and equipment providers such as Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung.
“We want that startups and educational institutions should also have access to the 5G test trials. We are seeking a time-bound (application) clearance mechanism, apart from giving out trial spectrum for a period of one-year on a one-time licence fee of just Rs 5,000,” said the ministry official.