Tech Mahindra: India Needs to Begin 5G Spectrum Auction Now!
Manish Vyas, President of Communications Business and Chief Executive Officer of Network Services, of Tech Mahindra said the India Department of Telecom needs to commence the auction of 5G spectrum now. He noted that regulators in some countries have already formulated policies and initiated spectrum auctions for the 5G roll out in their respective nations.
Vyas said 4G is yet to touch all parts of India and that needs to happens on a massive scale. Yet there are some “definite green-shoots” of 5G trials.
More than technology, the bigger impediment could be the India regulatory body’s policy on 5G spectrum. The experimental license by DoT will need modifications, and till that happens, the sector is in for a “waiting game” he said.
“US, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and more (have started 5G spectrum auctions). Spectrum is the life blood of any wireless network. For 5G, globally regulators have been licensing mid-band (3.5GHz) and in some countries mmWave (millimeter Wave) spectrum bands as well.
For 5G to be rolled out in India, the first necessary step is for the regulator to auction the 5G spectrum. Everything else will be gated on spectrum,” he wrote in an email to the Economic Times of India.
Vodafone Idea recently said the auction of 5G spectrum should not be held before 2020 as the industry needs time to develop India-specific use cases for the next-generation technology.
A DoT official in December last year said the government expects to complete processes for 5G spectrum auction by August, 2019.
Tech Mahindra established a strategic partnership with Intel on a wide range of topics spanning across Virtualization of RAN (radio access network) , Cloud native 5G Core and on Edge Computing, Vyas said.
“Intel brings best in class technology for 5G infrastructure and will form the foundation of 5G networks.
We are collaborating with Intel to maximise the benefits of their technology for 5G networks and we are also working on developing 5G use cases for specific industry verticals in the CoE,” he said.
A panel set up to recommend the scope of 5G trials in the country has submitted its report to the Department of Telecom (DoT), a source said.
The DoT-constituted committee chaired by IIT Kanpur Director Abhay Karandikar was tasked to give recommendations on the scope of trials, as well as size, quantum, pricing and other aspects for offering experimental/trial spectrum for 5G and other trials.
A DoT source privy to the development said that the report was submitted recently and is currently being examined, but did not divulge details.
Some industry representatives had earlier informed the committee, during the past deliberations, that the various stages involved in the process of experimentation and trials such as import and release of equipment, logistic clearance, installation and commission of equipment, network integration, interoperability checking, and testing of applications require longer duration and that the existing validity of three months is very short and needs to be increased.
The National Digital Communications Policy 2018 outlines a mission to ‘propel India’ by enabling next generation technologies and services through investments, innovation and IPR generation.
In this regard, it underlines the need to harness the power of emerging digital technologies, including 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Cloud and Big Data to enable provision of future-ready products and services.
19 thoughts on “Tech Mahindra: India Needs to Begin 5G Spectrum Auction Now!”
Jio adds 9.4 million customers in March, Airtel, Vodafone-Idea lose
: Reliance Jio has added 9.4 million customers while India’s teledensity has declined 1.82% to 90.11%, from 91.86% in March 2019 with active wireless subscribers reaching 1,021.75 million, the sector regulator in a finding Tuesday said.
Jio has added 9.4 million users in March to take its user base to 307.7 million, while Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel lost 14.5 million and 15.1 million customers, respectively, to take their subscriber bases to 394.8 million and 325.2 million during the same period, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said.
Bharti Airtel had 27.99% subscriber market share, Vodafone Idea 33.98% and Jio had 26.40% market share as of March 2019.
Vodafone Idea’s active use base, or VLR, was 93.27% of its overall subscribers, while Reliance Jio was at 84.04%. The finding revealed that Bharti Airtel has the maximum proportion – of 100.82% – of active wireless subscribers in the month of March 2019.
In the broadband segment, Vodafone Idea had 19.57%, Bharti Airtel 20.35% and Reliance Jio had 54.45% market share as of March this year.
The monthly decline rates of urban and rural subscription stood at 0.90% and 2.98% respectively in March 2019, according to Trai.
The regulator added that in March, 5.30 million subscribers submitted their requests for Mobile Number Portability (MNP), and the cumulative porting requests have increased from 423.11 million in February to 428.40 million at the end of March 2019.
India’s Department of Telecom will start identifying and making available new spectrum bands for access and backhaul segments for timely deployment and growth of 5G networks, according to a ministry note. The department will also make available harmonised and contiguous spectrum required for deployment of next generation access technologies, a DoT note said.
“Identifying and making available new spectrum bands for access and backhaul segments for timely deployment and growth of 5G networks, making available harmonised and contiguous spectrum required for deployment of next generation access technologies for making adequate spectrum available for being equipped for the new broadband era”, said the DoT noting.
To offer multi-gigabits mobile broadband services (MBB), 5G would essentially require large contiguous spectrum blocks per operator to roll out 5G services, according to a TRAI white paper on 5G. DOT’s National Digital Communication Policy also supports this contention.
In India, earlier, only 2.400-2.4835 GHz and 5.825-5.875 GHz were unlicensed bands for indoor and outdoor use of low power equipment. Recently, 5150-5250 MHz, 5250-5350 MHz, 5470-5725 MHz and 5725-5875 MHz frequency bands have been included as unlicensed for use in indoor and outdoor environment. The opening of more unlicensed frequencies will facilitate development of 5G ecosystem, the TRAI paper said.
The department’s WPC (Wireless planning & Coordination) wing is also simplifying rules enabling ‘light-touch’ licensing and delicensing of spectrum for broadband proliferation.
TRAI had recommended auction of about 8,644 MHz of telecom frequencies. The 5G committee of the telecom ministry has said about 6,000 Mhz of spectrum can be made available without delay for the next generation mobile service. The panel has identified spectrum for 5G services across 11 bands, of which four bands — premium 700 Mhz band, 3.5 gigahertz (Ghz), 24 Ghz and 28 Ghz band — can be made immediately available for the service.
It is likely that the entire spectrum quantum suggested by TRAI will be put to auction .
The 700 MHz band was put for auction last time but was not sold. The 35 MHz paired spectrum is still available for 4G and 5G services. The 3.5 GHz band has recently been identified in India for IMT services. 100 MHz spectrum from 3300-3400 MHz is available on pan India basis and out of 200 MHz in 3400-3600 MHz band.
Globally, full scale deployment of 5G networks is expected to start by late 2019 or early 2020 for which pilots have already commenced. India is also not far behind. The 5G High Level Forum envisages 5G to be deployed in India by 2020 along with the rest of the world.
DoT may auction 4G, 5G spectrum by October
The auction is expected to be India’s largest so far, with 8,293.95 MHz of airwaves at an estimated total base price of Rs 5.77 lakh crore expected to go under the hammer.
Ensure 5G spectrum to be available equally to telcos: Balesh Sharma
India is set to put airwaves on sale this calendar year including 5G frequencies with regulator recommending frequencies in the 3300-3600Mhz range.
india Telecom Spectrum Auction to be held this year: Telecom Minister Prasad
Newly-appointed Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Monday said that India will hold spectrum auction for 5G and other bands in the current calendar year.
COAI – Price of 5G spectrum in India 30-40 pc higher than global rates:
A day after the government announced its intention to hold spectrum auctions in the current year, industry body COAI said that the recommended base price of 5G radiowaves is nearly 30-40 per cent higher than the rates in markets like South Korea and the US.
Telcos disagree over 5G spectrum pricing
Airtel, Voda Idea say that 5G spectrum price is exorbitant; Jio backs auction rates
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.
Affordable, adequate and clean 5G spectrum need of the hour: Rajan Mathews
In an interaction with ETTelecom, Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said, “The industry needs affordable spectrum – present pricing is not appropriate.
While limited participation from telecom operators is being speculated in the upcoming 5G spectrum auction, the telecom industry representative body has made clear that the current spectrum pricing is not appropriate and the industry would need affordable, adequate and clean spectrum to take up 5G.
In an interaction with ETTelecom, Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said, “The industry needs affordable spectrum – present pricing is not appropriate. Secondly we need clean spectrum because now there appears to be all types of contention among various government, space and satellite agencies.”
“Globally when everybody is looking at 28 GHz to be added to what we call as the mobility band of spectrum; we’re finding that we’re locked out of that because of the use of that band by the satellite industry,” he added.
Global rating agency Fitch had recently said that India’s reserve price of $70 million per MHz is “expensive”, and will force Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel to participate in 5G spectrum auctions in a “limited” way.
“We’re seeing balkanization of spectrum, such as in 3.3 GHz to 3.5 GHz band. Even when we look at 26 GHz band, we’re seeing the same problems,” commented Mathews.
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.
Huawei says contiguous blocks of cheap 5G spectrum are needed in India
Huawei believes India must focus on allocating contiguous blocks of cost-effective 5G spectrum for a successful rollout.
Executives from Huawei made the comments during the company’s Connect event in Shanghai. Ken Hu, deputy chairman of Huawei, noted the allocation of spectrum as being among India’s current biggest challenges when it comes to 5G.
“We hope that spectrum resources can be allocated more efficiently. It’s very important to have contiguous resources released to carriers in India,” Hu explained.
Global 5G standards body the ITU states ‘true’ 5G requires 100MHz of 5G spectrum. Ideally, each operator needs at least this amount in a contiguous block.
Speaking at the ET Telecom 5G Congress event in August, Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal said:
“Indian operators need 1,000MHz of spectrum each in order to do 5G properly. There is a lot of work to be done freeing up mmWave spectrum in the high bands.
Even when you talk about spectrum in the mid-band – the 3.5GHz spectrum – every operator is going to need 75-100MHz of spectrum. Otherwise, you will see a 5G icon displayed on your phone but, in reality, you will just be getting a 4G experience.”
Telcos reluctant to bid for 5G spectrum on concerns of high prices, low quantum: COAI
Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) Director-General Rajan Mathews said there could be some takers for 4G spectrum in the auctions, which the government hopes to conduct in the current financial year.
Adding to the growing chorus for lowering of Trai-recommended rates, industry body COAI on Tuesday said its member companies have indicated reluctance in picking up 5G spectrum in the upcoming government-organised sale of radiowaves, concerned over high prices and less-then-adequate quantum. Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) Director-General Rajan Mathews said there could be some takers for 4G spectrum in the auctions, which the government hopes to conduct in the current financial year.
“In spectrum auctions, for sub-1GHz, it is possible that someone might want to pick up some spectrum for 4G but 5G pricing is still the main challenge. Our members have indicated that at the current prices, it does not make sense to invest this kind of money,” Mathews told .
On Monday, the Broadband India Forum (BIF) had claimed that radiowaves unsold in past auctions, because they were priced high, had an implication of Rs 5.4 lakh crore due to economic benefits lost, and that the government needs to ensure adequacy and “reasonable” rates for upcoming 5G auction.
Spectrum price in India is, by far, the most important factor in determining the fate of an auction, its success or failure, BIF had said, adding that prices should trigger maximum sale and, hence, optimal realisation of direct and indirect benefits, and not be driven by short-term financial gains.
The government in August-end invited bids for selection of agency that will conduct spectrum auctions in various bands, including 5G, — setting the stage for mega sale of over 8000 MHz of radiowaves, at a start price of over Rs 5.7 lakh crore. The deadline for submission of the bids by prospective auctioneers is September 25.
But, the industry laments that the spectrum prices proposed in India are four times higher than other markets.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), in July this year, refused to budge on its recommendation on base price and valuation of spectrum, dashing hopes of financially-stressed companies such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea which had desired a lower base price. Trai had made it clear to the telecom department that it has considered “all relevant factors” while giving views on prices.
COAI’s Mathews contended that not only is the price tag of spectrum working out to be expensive for the telecom industry, even the quantum of 5G radiowaves being put on the block is inadequate for three private operators, given that such services and applications would require at least 100 MHz of spectrum for each player.
Against the 300 MHz that was originally intended to be made available, space and defence departments are likely to stake a claim on cumulative 125 MHz. In case the telecom department agrees to such claims, this could leave a paltry 175 MHz for all 5G aspirants.
The issues have been flagged by COAI to the telecom department in a recent meeting, Mathews said.
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.
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5G financing: Unbundle services, say Trai chairman
The industry needs to come up with innovative investment solutions like unbundling of infrastructure and investments for different services in the telecom sector in order to finance the adoption of the 5G technology, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman Ram Sewak Sharma said.
“This could be one way of distributing investments needed for 5G technology, Sharma said at the ‘Telecom Summit 2020 5G Technology: Forging Ahead Into a Smarter India, ‘ organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PHDCCI) and the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association (TEMA).
The top official also said that it had favoured local manufacturing of telecom gear, and already sent out its recommendations to the government.
Sharma added that it must be kept in mind that telecom players could not be investing alone in the country’s quest for 5G technology that will have multiple applications and that adopting unbundling of services could help the private telecom sector cope with the investment needs that are going to be huge.
“The key issue is to explore the possibilities of common infrastructure and sharing the same and how to frame policies for this so that no one is hurt, said Ajit Pai, Advisor, NITI Ayog, and added that asset monetisation could be one aspect that the telecom players could consider.
Sandeep Agarwal, Chairman, Telecom Committee of the PHDCCI said that 5G was needed and while discouraging products, technology should be imported by India.
“ITI and C-DOT can be used to invest in higher technology, optical fibre preforms and chip manufacturing. The foreign companies must be allowed access to Indian market only on the condition they sell technology and allow manufacture of licensed telecom equipment in India, ” Agarwal said.
Expressing his apprehensions over bringing 5G too soon, he said that the government could consider whether this was the best time to embrace 5G.
Really appreciate you sharing this blog post on Tech Mahindra’s push for India 5G auctions. However, those auctions are not happening anytime soon. Keep writing to keep us informed.
India’s much delayed 5G trials could hit a fresh snag, with Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea (Vi) saying they don’t have any clarity on whether the coveted millimetre wave bands (26 GHz and 28 GHz) – allotted for trials – will be auctioned in the next spectrum sale.
The telecom operators said they cannot spend time, effort and money to developing 5G use cases around these mmWave bands, unless the government commits to their commercial allotment at affordable rates as well. They called upon the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to revise the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP-2021) to include these vital mmWave band airwaves, which will give the carriers clarity before they start trials.
SP Kochhar, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), told ET that “a reminder has just been sent to DoT that the revised NFAP has still not been finalised by its Wireless Planning & Coordination wing even after various meetings of the working groups were held and inputs provided by all stakeholders”.
The COAI represents Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vi and global network vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia.
Bharti Airtel, Jio and Vi did not respond to ET’s queries till press time.
Though DoT earlier this month allowed telcos to conduct 5G trials on multiple spectrum bands, including mmWaves, the latter does not find a place in the current NFAP.
If mmWave bands do not figure in the revised NFAP-2021, industry executives said 5G deployment costs would jump manifold and make the ultra-fast wireless broadband service unaffordable to consumers in India. They said mmWave bands such as 26 GHz and 28 GHz offer lightning fast data rates above 2 Gbps and huge capacity, which are critical for running 5G use cases cost-effectively, and also since the bulk of the global 5G devices ecosystem is evolving around these bands.
Telcos are being given experimental airwaves in mid-band (3.2-3.67 GHz), sub-GHz (700/800 MHz) and mmWave bands (26-28 GHz) to run 5G trials for six months. So far, only mid-band spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz bands has been earmarked by the government for 5G services.
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“Only after mmWaves are included in the revised NFAP, can DoT give a reference to Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to examine and start fresh consultations on all bands identified for 5G, relook at their pricing and make fresh recommendations for the next auction,” said a senior industry executive, who did not wish to be identified.
Unless this happens soon, the next auction could get pushed back by another 12-18 months, said the executive, and telcos will not see any business case in investing heavily in 5G network trials and developing India-relevant use cases, especially if there is no certainty around the commercial availability of crucial mmWave 5G spectrum.
The revised NFAP-2021 will outline available airwave bands and services for which they can be used, including mobile broadband communications, defence, satellite operations under the Department of Space and also to meet the needs of the aviation, information and broadcasting, railways and home ministries.
“It’s essential the revised NFAP document is finalised and issued at the earliest by DoT as it will earmark spectrum for various usages in the country,” said Kochhar.
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