Indian telcos propose year-long 5G field trials which begin this June!
India’s major mobile operators have both submitted proposals to conduct year-long field trials of 5G services. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm – along with technology partners including Cisco, Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia – have submitted detailed proposals to the Department of Telecom, the Economic Times reported.
The Indian mobile network operators are now awaiting approvals, and it is expected to take an additional initial three months to complete preparations and clearances, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) told the publication. COAI is the industry body that represents Vodafone Idea, Airtel and Jio.
But the Department of Telecom has previously expressed a reluctance to allocate airwaves for 5G trials beyond a 90 day window, which the industry believes would be way too short of a time to conduct the required trials. The India government has not taken any decision yet on the duration, a contentious issue for airwaves allocation.
According to COAI, the industry is expected to finally reach an agreement with the DoT on the duration of the proposed allocations, as well as other issues. The Telecommunications Regulator of India has recommended the 3.5-GHz frequency range be used for 5G, and aims to complete an initial 5G auction early next year.
The much-awaited network trial for 5G services in India is scheduled to start this June, with a Telecom Ministry panel recommending spectrum for the test run to the incumbent telcos for a three-month period. The panel which deliberated on the quantum and duration of the spectrum trial has recommended 5G spectrum to Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio initially for three months, which can be scaled up to one year in case they need more time for network stabilisation.
The three equipment vendors who have got the green signal from the panel are Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson, sources said.
The allocation will take place in the next 15 days and telcos could start intial 5G run in June itself. The network trial licenses will be issued in a few days’ time.
7 thoughts on “Indian telcos propose year-long 5G field trials which begin this June!”
Indian mobile carriers are apparently finding it hard to come out with relevant use cases for the fifth-generation or 5G technology making the government-backed commercial rollout gloomy as envisaged for 2020.
“5G is not a mass technology, at least immediately. The next generation of technology is more inclined towards business customers which are shying away from it, making telco’s potential business opportunity in limbo,” a top executive of the country’s leading telco said.
Since 2016, the Narendra Modi-led government has shown much enthusiasm and is not leaving any stone unturned with empowering the AJ Paulraj-headed 5G high-level forum and sub-committees for a healthy dialogue between the industry and government, as well as identifying the bottlenecks for a robust 5G roadmap.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is planning to auction about 8,644 MHz of telecom frequencies, including the 3.3-3.6GHz band identified for 5G services, at an estimated total base price of Rs 4.9 lakh crore, which, the COAI members such as Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, believe is too costly an affair.
The upcoming 5G networks — expected to be around 20 times faster than 4G ones — are considered vital for emerging technologies like self-driving cars, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
Just one megahertz of 5G spectrum has been proposed with a base price of Rs 492 crore, which according to the industry body, is 6-7 times more than the current 5G airwaves available in other countries. Companies have to bid for blocks of at least 20 units, so securing pan-India 5G spectrum will cost a company at least $1.42 billion at base price levels.
On the sidelines of the ‘Security Symposium and Awards 2019’ hosted by Infosec Foundation, Rajan said: “Around 10% Indian smartphone owners use antivirus or malware protector in their mobile phones. Our personal data is absolutely vulnerable to be used by third parties with the help of cookies. We do not read terms and conditions while downloading a mobile app and simply agree to it without knowing what all we are divulging.”
Telecom experts have also warned about the risks involved in the ever-growing data usage in the cyber space, which has no boundaries. According to them, the prevalence of social media usage and the ability to interact anonymously are two of the biggest reasons why cybercrimes on social networking sites have gone wild.
“The increasing propensity to experiment with various social apps sometimes prompts people upload photo with the intention of having fun. This has been the reason behind the popularity of ‘FaceApp’ and Stulish,” said Sushobhan Mukherjee, Chairman, Infosec Foundation.
Vodafone Idea CEO: We must nail 4G if we want to do 5G right in India
Vodfone Idea has recently deployed Massive MIMO technology across its 4G networks, in order to pave the way for the transition to 5G in 2020
Vodafone Idea will continue to develop and invest in its existing 4G networks, as it paves the way for the move towards 5G next year, according to the company’s CEO.
Speaking at the ET Telecom 5G Congress in New Delhi last week, Sharma said that it was crucially important to ensure that the country’s 4G networks were on the cutting edge of innovation, to ease the transition into 5G.
“5G is the opportunity of a lifetime. It is the culmination of everything we have been working towards over the last few years. It’s about making the connectivity revolution happen.
“5G in India, as with everywhere else in the world, is going to launch on a non-stand-alone basis, which means it will be built on top of our existing 4G framework. This is an absolute imperative to get the 4G story right. It means we have to spread the 4G networks right across the country and make sure that they are robust enough to deal with enormous volumes of traffic,” he said.
Sharma said that the biggest issue in evolving from 4G to 5G connectivity would be the backhaul. Sharma claims that right now, there is insufficient quantities of fibre available to operators, meaning that backhaul could end up being a throttling point for 5G network speeds. Indeed, it is already having an effect on the country’s 4G networks.
“The 5G capabilities are being introduced to our networks right now. It will not just be a case of flicking a switch and going from 4G to 5G.
“For example, Massive MIMO. I just tested the speed on our network using the Ookla speed test. We are clocking speeds of 39.8Mbps on our 4G network right now, which is pretty good. That’s because we have already deployed Massive MIMO technology on our network. Massive MIMO is a 5G technology but we have already deployed over 5,000 Massive MIMO sites across the country. That is the second biggest deployment of that technology in the world. It’s already here.
So, why are the speeds stuck at 39Mbps and not going on to 100 or 200Mbps? Its not a spectrum issue, its not a radio issue, it’s a backhaul issue. We have to have fibre everywhere as far as I’m concerned. We could even make it a shared fibre network, to ensure that everyone has access to that essential fibre that will power their 5G backhaul. Either that, or we need a massive release of microwave spectrum in the E-band for mobile backhaul. If you give me either of those things, we could see speeds of 100Mbps+ on our exiting 4G networks today,” he said.
5G spectrum sale may be deferred to early 2020
Spectrum sale, including that of 5G airwaves, is likely to be pushed back to early 2020, given that the auctioneer will only be appointed by October 10, and major work on the draft auction documents is still pending, with the telecom department yet to take a call on airwave quantity and pricing, say officials and industry executives.
“The timeline may be delayed by around a month, give or take,” said a Department of Telecommunications (DoT) official, who did not want to be named.
The DoT had initially in June outlined plans to hold the next spectrum sale — first since 2016 — by December 2019.
“It looks realistically difficult… extremely tight for auctions to begin by the year end,” said Rajan Mathews, director general at Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents all carriers in the country.
DoT on Monday invited bids for selecting an auctioneer by September 25.
The final selection will take place by October 10. The auctioneer’s appointment is typically followed by the government issuing the Notice Inviting Application (NIA) — the document formalising the terms and conditions of the auctions which includes the price and quantum of spectrum to be sold.
5G spectrum needs to be affordable: Nunzio Mirtillo, Ericsson
“If I should be in the shoes of the customer, obviously spectrum needs to be affordable, otherwise it does not make sense. I can’t say if they will go muted or not, but there is a limit to investment capabilities of the operators, which is obvious.”
5G WEAK SIGNAL, by Suman Layak
1 December 2019 The Economic Times – Delhi Edition
Copyright © 2019. Bennett, Coleman & Co., Ltd.
The plan to conduct 5G spectrum auction early next year seems unrealistic, given the battering in the telecom space and the paucity of viable use cases for the next-gen network
The National Company Law Tribunal courtroom of MK Shrawat and CB Singh in Mumbai was empty on the afternoon of November 27, though a vital order for the beleaguered telecom sector was due that day. The court was to decide whether Aircel, the insolvent telecom operator, could retain the right to use its allotted portion of airwaves, and make it count as an asset in the ongoing debt-resolution process.
The order was finally available on the website past midnight, around 12.30 am on Thursday. It said, much to the relief of Aircel’s creditors, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) could not take away the telecom spectrum from the bankrupt company.
The implications of the order went beyond Aircel: the Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Communications had filed for bankruptcy in February. The DoT had wanted to take back spectrum from mobile telephone service operators who have not paid their dues so that it can reauction them. For telecom players, the right to use spectrum for the licence period is an asset that they can transfer to other bidders.
Like the court of Shrawat and Singh, multiplied to ?7.64 lakh crore from ?2.8 lakh crore in the same period. At the same time, there is consumer dissatisfaction over low-quality network. While some companies are in the bankruptcy courts, Airtel and Vodafone are trying to deal with a ?92,000 crore blow from the Supreme Court in a 16-year-old case related to revenue calculation.
It does not bode well for the sector that it has to deal with these issue at a time when the world is talking about adopting much of Indian telecom sector is today burning the midnight oil to figure a way out of the mess it finds itself in. From 10 private sector telecom operators not so long ago, India now has only three major mobile telecom players – the Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel, the Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone Group venture Vodafone Idea and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio. A battle of attrition over tariff between the three, after Reliance Jio entered the market and grabbed almost a third of the market share, has seen the operators’ cash flows shrink rapidly over the past three years. The industry’s annual revenues have largely been stagnant since FY2015, while cumulative debt has 5G technology – the next generation of super-fast wireless communication technology. South Korea has already rolled it out in Seoul and Indian companies were about to start their own pilot projects. Union Telecommunication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said the government plans to auction extra spectrum for 5G services by early next year. However, this seems to be the worst of times for 5G rollout.
Talking of 5G now when every company is haemorrhaging cash, says a former CEO of an Indian telecom company who didn’t want to be named, is akinto Nero playing the fiddle while Rome was burning.
Sanjay Kapoor, former CEO of Bharti Airtel, says the enthusiasm for 5G across the world is being driven by equipment makers, like Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson, and the governments, but the device ecosystem is still lagging. “Use cases for 5G have to be fully developed for every market and then monetisation plans have to be worked out. There is much work left to do,” he says.
Despite the challenges facing the sector, the government’s plan to auction airwaves would open the supply taps. A total of 8,644 MHz of airwaves might be put up on offer, though the previous spectrum auction saw poor response. In 2016-17, the government could sell only 41% (965 MHz) of the spectrum on offer. It raised about ?65,000 crore though the base price of the entire spectrum value on the block was pegged at ?5.6 lakh crore. A mega-auction has been in the works for some time now, along with spectrum for 5G technology, in the 3,300-3,600 MHz band.
For the upcoming auction, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has suggested a base price of ?492 crore per MHz for 5G spectrum. Operators are almost unanimous that they would need 100 MHz each to roll out 5G, which means they would have to pay nearly ?50,000 crore each for the spectrum fee alone. This would make it the highest priced 5G spectrum in the world.
Despite the abundance of supply, demand during auction might be low due to other problems. Aircel and Reliance Communications will not participate as they are in insolvency courts. Airtel, Vodafone Idea and others are dealing with the massive financial blow after the Supreme Court in October ruled that licence fees of operators need to be calculated on the basis of their adjusted gross revenues, and not their telecom revenues alone. In an attempt to give some relief to the companies struggling with high debt and huge losses, the government then announced a two-year moratorium on payments of spectrum dues.
For Bharti Airtel, the ruling means an additional burden of ?35,000 crore on pending dues. Vodafone Idea has dues of around ?53,000 crore. Vodafone Global CEO Nick Read had in November reportedly hinted at virtually writing off the India investments, although he retracted and apologised a day later.
Bharti Airtel has moved a petition in the Supreme Court seeking permission to negotiate with the government to find a way to reduce the burden. Vodafone has also moved the court for relief.
The third operator, Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Jio, has much lower dues at ?60 crore, mostly because it is a recent player and has already paid a part of the dues. However, sources say, Reliance Jio might also go slow on 5G.
For the quarter ended September 30, Bharti Airtel posted a loss of ?23,044 crore and Vodafone Idea reported a loss of ?50,921 crore. Jio posted a 45% rise in profit at ?990 crore.
Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel did not respond to queries.
Chairman of Inditrade Capital and market analyst Sudip Bandyopadhyay points out that while the government has announced a moratorium for spectrum payments to help the industry, it cannot expect a good spectrum auction at the same time. “It is best for the government to not do 5G auctions now, because if it does, who is going to buy? And how will it get a good price in this kind of a market? Even if Reliance Jio participates, it will get the auction at a low price and will be able to hoard it.”Much of the woes of the telecom sector, including the bankruptcy of some of the operators, can be traced back to the entry of Reliance Jio and the tariff battle that followed. However, Reliance Jio, after gaining about one-third of the market, has now raised tariff, signalling an end to the battle.
Director General of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Rajan Matthews says the sector needs time to settle down. “We do not believe that the time is ripe for 5G auctions. The concerns around financial health of the sector must be resolved immediately. Hence, we are of the view that the government should not rush to spectrum auctions and should wait for the market to settle down.”A Tech PuzzleBeyond the financial issues, the sector is also facing technical problems.
Kapoor, who sits on the board of Saudi Telecom, which launched 5G services in Saudi Arabia in June, says the road to 5G is complex in India. He lists out a few necessary changes that Indian operators must implement first before looking at the next-gen technology. Much of the margins in 4G were taken away by the content players who rode on the bandwidth, he says. For 5G, the telecom operators need to get this margin balance right. Also, he says, a big difference will be that 5G is likely to have more focus on B2B operation, and the operators will need to set up a fresh marketing machinery to sell the same. There would be manufacturing and service sector applications, like robotics or tracking and even financial sector applications, in 5G.
On the technical front, Kapoor points out that 5G is a higher speed network with low latency (the time it takes for a request for data to reach the server and for the data to reach the user). This allows it to be used for critical applications, such as driverless cars, which need a strong fibre network connection. There cannot be any dark spots in the network for such applications. “Complete coverage across India may be uneconomical,” Kapoor says, adding that while inter-city fibre may be available, India lacks enough intra-city fibre.
High InvestmentPrashant Singhal, technology, media and telecommunication leader for emerging markets at EY, says the investments that need to go in for 5G in India are likely to be much higher than those for 3G or 4G networks and there is no need to rush into it. “The 4G auctions had happened in 2010 and the rollout happened only by 2015-16. We do not want such a situation in 5G also,” Singhal cautions.
E&Y has estimated that it would cost $100 billion or so to launch 5G in India. The government has announced a moratorium on spectrum fees payments and has asked the GST Council to help lower the tax burden. Given this situation, Singhal says, where is the question of doing a successful spectrum auction, leave alone a 5G launch.
To be sure, work has already started on trials and development of 5G use cases. Ericsson has set up Centre of Excellence and Innovation Lab for 5G at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi. Intel has inaugurated the Intel Design Center, its new R&D facility for 5G and artificial intelligence, in Bengaluru. The DoT in June flagged off 5G trials, stating the trials would go on for a year. But the early-2020 target for 5G spectrum auctions looks impossible to achieve. “India can and will adopt 5G in good time,” adds Matthews of COAI.
Bennett, Coleman & Co., Ltd.
Thanks for another wonderful IEEE Techblog article!
Where else can anyone get that type of information on 5G field trials in India?
I’ve a presentation to make this week on this topic so was searching for such info. How did India’s 5G field trials go? Did they prove anything?
Comments are closed.