The government of India is still evaluating if enterprises will be allowed to have their own 5G infrastructure
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has told the Government of India that local carriers will not have incentives to deploy 5G networks if authorities allowed private companies to run their own private 5G networks, according to local press reports.
The COAI, which has local operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea as some of its key members, has sent a letter to India’s Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stating that there is “no business case for the roll out of 5G networks” if the government finally approved the possibility for local enterprises to deploy and operate their own 5G networks.
The entity noted that the possibility of permitting such private networks will “diminish the revenue so much that there will be no viable business case left for the telecom service providers and there will not remain any need for 5G network roll out by telecom service providers.”
According to local press report, the government is still evaluating if enterprises will be allowed to have their own 5G infrastructure or if these networks will be provided by local carriers, something that could potentially delay the much-awaited 5G spectrum auction.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had previously recommended the government to allow local enterprises to deploy and operate private 5G networks. Large companies such as Tata Communications, ITC and the Broadband India Forum, which has Google and Facebook as key members, have also been pushing for permitting such networks.
According to Indian newspaper Business Standard, the general thinking in the government at the highest levels is that enterprises should be allowed to run their own networks and get allocation of spectrum directly from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) at an administered price. Some government officials also believe that these companies should also be given the choice to lease out spectrum from operators and run their own networks, according to the report.
COAI also noted that the enterprise sector is the most lucrative area in the 5G business stating that an authorization for local firms to have their own 5G networks will negatively impact the profitability of 5G for local carriers.
Broadband India Forum (BIF), which supports private networks, recently published a paper in which it has challenged the premise that Indian operators would lose revenues as the entity considers that private 5G will lead to increased productivity for enterprises which will in turn increase the need for more external communications.
According to previous reports, India plans to award bands such as 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz and 3,300-3,600 MHz bands. Through the spectrum auction, operators will be also able to bid for spectrum in the millimeter-wave band.
The most recent auction took place this past March and raked in winning bids of more than INR778 billion ($10.5 billion) for 855.6 megahertz of spectrum.
While bids were received for 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.3 GHz bands, no bids were made for spectrum in the 700 MHz band due to the high reserve price for this frequency band.
In May of 2021, India’s Department of Telecommunications authorized local carriers to carry out trials of 5G technology in the country. The entity said that the permits were given to Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Vodafone Idea and MTNL, which will carry out these 5G trials in partnerships with vendors including Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT. In addition, Reliance Jio Infocomm will also be conducting trials using its own technology. Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE were not included in this phase of 5G trials.