Airtel Urges Government To Keep The 5G Spectrum Pricing Low

Sunil Bharti Mittal said that there are a variety of applications across sectors ranging from healthcare to video interactions, which will make 5G a technology to be introduced as soon as possible.

Telecom service operator Airtel on Thursday urged the government not to charge high fees for allotting the 5G spectrum, saying a faster rollout of the next-generation telecommunication network can have more benefits than collecting revenue in upfront cost.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises which runs the country's second largest telco, said that there are a variety of applications across sectors ranging from healthcare to video interactions, which will make 5G a technology to be introduced as soon as possible.

"5G is important and that's why we keep on requesting the government to make the 5G as an enabler for hundreds of things that we develop in the country, to keep the spectrum at affordable pricing, to not load the industry too much," Mittal said at the Times Network India Economic Conclave.

Mittal argued that instead of devoting money on spectrum acquisitions, service providers can invest in a faster rollout of the network, which will deliver high speed connectivity with lower latency.

"I will say the multiplier impact that a faster, high-speed, low-latency network can have for a country is many times more than what can be achieved by picking up some money upfront," he added.

In the past, telcos have complained about high reserve prices being a deterrent, and the high cost for spectrum has been called out as one of the reasons why the telecom industry has been in a poor financial position for the last few years.

About the proliferation of private and unregulated cryptocurrencies, Mittal said such instruments pose a "serious problem" and backed finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's plea at a global forum in Washington for a concerted response.

Mittal, whose company also runs a payments bank, said there are issues around Know Your Customer (KYC) with such currencies, but said that the technology should be protected against harsh actions like a blanket ban.

"...There may be some very hard actions by the nation-states to make it (cryptocurrencies) not legal going forward. That needs to be protected. It is a fine technology, it needs to be protected for the use of mankind so they can be safe, very easily traceable type of ecosystem of money, but for that governments need to catch up," he said.

Mittal, who also aims at offering satellite-based connectivity through a neo-constellation of satellites, said the rollouts in Alaska and Canada have been successful and added that far-off places in India like the areas near the China border, jungles of Gir or the Himalayan mountains require such technology for connecting people. He said terrestrial radio networks cannot reach up to 10 per cent of the Indian population which can be connected through satellites.

Speaking at the same event, V Vaidyanathan of private sector lender IDFC First Bank said India is in the "magic quadrant" where the strength of the government can ensure reforms.

Vaidyanathan said, "In the course of this process, we have to really think about how to deal with the situation where a small affected minority can affect the progress and benefit of a much larger group on the basis of disturbing the overall ecosystem or disturbing the process."

Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur, who also spoke at the event, said over 25,000 laws and rules affecting businesses were repealed last year and added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his ministerial colleagues to decriminalise certain aspects.

Times Group managing director Vinit Jain said some countries have grown by stamping out dissent and adopting a top-down approach, whereas India has a "noisy and argumentative" political process. He hoped that the two-day event will act as a catalyst in pursuit of realising India's potential on a global scale and create a more "humane and peaceful world". 

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