The Big 3 telcos were dreading the prospect of stiff penalities of around Rs 50 crore per MRO violation, starting June, as DoT had earlier not extended the compliance timelines beyond May 31, despite repeated reminders from operators.
"Four bidders have qualified in the technical round. They include 2 firms that have experience of spectrum auction. In case an experienced firm is selected, then the auction can begin after two months, and in other case, it can begin after 3 months. Based on the plan in process, the auction can start in August-September also, but the timeline will not go beyond October," a source said.
A critical piece of ammo the Chinese had was access to ultra-fast fifth generation wireless broadband networks. In fact, the hours of live video calls and video-conferencing to guide Chinese medical workers in the frontlines happened over 5G networks and the HD cameras, hospital robots and remote-controlled mobile trolleys were also powered by 5G.
"There is no immediate impact but the pain point is the volume of gear that needs to be imported to keep networks provisioned with spares and equipment in the next nine to 12 months, may not happen since the industry has not received the ETA certificate from the WPC," an industry source on anonymity told ET Telecom.
TRAI finalised its recommendations after considering all comments received from stakeholders during the consultation process and further analysis of the issues. TRAI recommended that the valuation of FM radio channels in 273 new cities has been worked out as a simple mean of the three valuation approaches.
Representatives from industry bodies like COAI and Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) as well as telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and state-owned telcos attended the meeting called by senior telecom department officials.
Vodafone Idea flagged the "deep financial distress" in the telecom sector, reflecting in unprecedented decline in revenues. Over the last three years, half a dozen operators have exited by either merging their businesses with existing Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) or declaring bankruptcy, Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL) rued.
"We have already floated a consultation paper on the subject of floor pricing… There is no question of expediting the process…There is no such deadline of 1st April on it," Trai chairman RS Sharma told ET on Friday. "Telcos are well within their right to fix a floor if they see an urgent need for it. There is nothing stopping them from doing that," he added.
Telecom regulator Trai on Wednesday strongly defended its recommendations on pricing of spectrum, including 5G airwaves, saying its views had been finalised based on industry feedback, and it is for the individual stakeholders to decide whether to participate in the auction or not.
Trai's views assume significance as Bharti Airtel, earlier this month, made it clear that it will not buy 5G spectrum in the upcoming auction if its base price is fixed at Rs 492 crore per megahertz as recommended by the telecom regulator. Trai chairman RS Sharma said that it is up to the cos to participate in the auction.
Earlier this month, the Trai had sought views for a roadmap on reasonable Internet traffic management practices that don’t infringe on rules around a free Web or hurt the consumer. It had also sought views on the governance structure of a proposed multi-stakeholder body that would advise the DoT on ways to monitor and apply net neutrality rules.
Trai has realised that it is no longer a financial arbitrage issue between telcos and apps, but one of security and lawful interception. There is also an absence of a global example of similar rules and the regulator needs to factor in clauses in the upcoming data protection law and social intermediary guidelines before making any recommendations.
Crying Foul After consumer group accuses Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel of wilfully disobeying SC orders, with COAI playing a part, COAI says petition is only looking to create problems. Airtel and Voda Idea have missed the Jan 23 deadline to pay dues to the government based on an expanded definition of adjusted gross revenue, as ordered by top court.
"The Director of Licensing Finance Policy Wing has issued direction that concerned departments should not take any coercive action against the licensees in case they fail to comply with the Supreme Court order, until further orders," an official source told PTI.
"Unfortunately, the proposal did not pass the test of internal scrutiny among the telcos, so we will have to come up with a different proposal," Rajan Mathews, DG, COAI, told ET. The COAI also clarified that neither the government nor the DoT was in any way involved in the plan which was only meant for internal scrutiny among the members of the association.