India watchdog recommends 36% cut in base price of prime 5G spectrum

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People stand in front of a board depicting 5G network at the India Mobile Congress 2018 in New Delhi, India, October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

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NEW DELHI, April 11 (Reuters) - India's telecoms watchdog on Monday recommended a 36% cut from its earlier proposed base price for the auction of a prime spectrum for 5G networks, signaling some relief to India's cash-strapped telecom sector.

The move comes as India's government is gearing up for next-generation 5G airwaves auction later this year, which is expected to see participation from the country's three main carriers - Vodafone Idea (VODA.NS), Bharti Airtel Ltd (BRTI.NS), and Reliance Industries Ltd's (RELI.NS) Jio.

The government is aiming to begin roll-out of 5G services by end-March 2023 in India, which is the world's second-biggest wireless market with over a billion subscribers.

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday recommended a base price of 3.17 billion Indian rupees ($41.80 million) for the prime 5G frequency of 3300-3670 MHz band for use across the country. It had previously recommended a pricing of 4.92 billion Indian rupees ($64.88 million) for the same, which a telecom lobby group had described as 'unaffordable'.

Next-generation 5G networks, which can provide data speeds at least 20 times faster than 4G, are seen as vital for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.

($1 = 75.8380 Indian rupees)

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Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi Editing by Alistair Bell

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