“This is in furtherance to our aforementioned submission on the urgent need for immediate auction of all available spectrum in all identified bands. We reiterate that the inexplicable delay of four years in auction of spectrum since 2016 has created a situation of dire spectrum scarcity, which is impacting the quality of experience and growth of services,” Jio said in a letter to telecom secretary Anshu Prakash, dated September 28.
“We are unable to find any reasonable rationale behind this sudden pause in a successful and fruitful policy of auctioning all available spectrum every year since the honorable Supreme Court decision in 2012,” Jio said in its letter, seen by ET.
The letter was also copied to telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, PK Mishra, principle secretary to the PM, and other senior officials in the Digital Communications Commission, the highest decision- making body in the telecom department.
Reliance Jio has laid a scathing attack on its rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea – without naming them – and alleged that they have created hurdles in the auction sale. “We understand that a few service providers might be opposing spectrum auctions to stifle competition, as they have amassed a large amount of spectrum, through mergers and acquisitions, and they are also losing customers every month,” said the letter.
ET reported on its September 25 edition that Reliance Jio is pushing hard for the bidding to take place at the earliest, while Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) are in no hurry and would like the sale process to take place in 2021.
“Some of the operators are merely interested in perpetuating that 2G technology and monetize the old equipment as much as possible. We submit that the nation building policies should not be kept hostage to vested interests of such a few specially when left to these designs countries would have still been in 2G-3G and thoroughly unequipped to meet the work from home and consequent bandwidth requirement challenges posed by Covid 19 pandemic,” said Jio.
The telco, the only profit-making operator whose parent Jio Platforms recently raised over Rs 1.52 lakh crore, has a large chunk of airwaves permits expiring in its key 800 MHz band in 2021. It also needs more spectrum to cater to its rapidly increasing subscriber base who are consuming more and more data. Financially weaker Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, faced with thousands of crores of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, too have spectrum permits ending around the same time, but in lesser quantities and have backup airwaves available, say experts.
The telco which is now racing to meet its target of 500 million subscribers said that the scarcity of spectrum is forcing telcos including Jio to deploy additional towers but it is not a “long term solution” which has seen rapid increase in demand for data while no additional spectrum given over the last 4 years.
“…it is clearly observed that the spectral efficiency is drastically reduced after certain densification of towers, due to interference and increase in overall noise floor…We have now reached an inflection point, where there is no substitute to additional spectrum, and any more delay can lead to very serious quality of service issues with potentially deteriorated voice quality in terms of call drops, and access failures,” said Jio.
The telco questioned the government as to why the auctions are stretched to the 11th hour since it also means loss of revenue. “We submit as per policy implemented and as per the decision of EGoM in 2012, based on recommendations of TRAI, the auction process for this spectrum should have been started 18 months before the expiry. However, even though the validity of spectrum for 39 licenses issued into 2001 is expiring in July-September, 2021, and not even eight months are left before expiry no action has been taken so far,” said the telco.