5G Spectrum – Airtel May Not Participate in Early Sale

5G Spectrum, Airtel

Smartphone makers are already readying themselves for fabricating devices which encourage 5G networks. Most leading manufacturers like Apple and OnePlus have hinted towards 5G smartphones following year in 2019. Best chipset manufacturers such as Qualcomm have been working on chips supporting the brand new high-speed fifth generation system technology. With all of this, we can be sure that we will see 5G smartphones in the coming year. However, the primary issue is when will the 5G network being rolled out in India? When it’s true of Reliance Jio, and when things go according to this Mukesh Ambani led telco, then we might observe the 5G network very soon in the country. But, other Telco’s like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea wish to push the deadline of 5G spectrum auction to 2020.

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Bharti Airtel is not likely to pitch for pricey 5G airwaves in almost any possible early spectrum sale as it feels deployment of this ultra-fast wireless technology is just three to four years away in India in the lack of acceptable use-cases or a compatible devices ecosystem. This was signaled by Airtel’s leadership group in a recent analyst meeting on ways to recharge the company’s troubled India business, analysts present in the event stated.

Morgan Stanley said the Sunil Mittal-led telco’s focus remains on “winning the 4G game decisively despite Jio’s entry,” adding “Airtel also has the backing of its big shareholders if more funds are needed to take on competitors”.

Bharti Airtel shares closed nearly a percentage greater at Rs 336.70 on BSE on Monday.

Brokerage ICICI Securities, in a note, said Bharti Airtel has “clarified it will not participate in a 5G spectrum auction since it doesn’t have an appetite for more spectrum purchase and would evaluate the same when the 5G ecosystem is more supportive”. ET has witnessed the notice.

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Brokerage BNP Paribas NSE -0.23 percent said Airtel’s top management feels that the telecom sector balance sheet — weighed down by nearly Rs 7-lakh crore debt–“can’t encourage (5G spectrum bids) now,” that is why it feels a 5G auction is “unlikely any time soon”.

The Airtel direction, ” the foreign agent said, also feels”5G will not fully replace 4G for a technology because 5G use cases such as a remote operation to driverless cars are not practical in the Indian context”.

The government, on its part, hasn’t signaled any defined auction timelines, with telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan saying only the 5G spectrum sale is probably from the second half of calendar 2019. DoT officials have also privately conceded that an auction is unlikely in FY19 since the industry is saddled with huge debt, though they do not rule out a staggered sale, particularly if it’s needed to appeal to the government’s financial needs in an election year.

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