STL to Setup Backend Network Infrastructure for 5G in India

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Sterlite Technologies Limited (STL) will contribute in building India’s 5G infrastructure for a smooth rollout of the next-generation network. It is worth noting that the company launched three different wireless products in the previous quarter. STL will soon commercially deploy Open Radio Access Network (Open-RAN) which is important for building the backend infrastructure for the rollout of 5G. As per a Livemint report, CEO of STL, Anand Agrawal, said that the company's new products could be used for indoor and outdoor deployment of small cells and radio sets — more details on the story ahead.

Investment in Wireless Radio Infrastructure Necessary

Agrawal emphasised on the need for wireless radio infrastructure in the country. He said that to improve coverage and quality of network in dense areas, huge investment on wireless radios is required.

For the unaware, a network consists of two parts - optical fibre for transmission and wireless radio. India is self-sufficient when it comes to optical fibre technology. But in the case of wireless radio, which is important for the backend network support; India imports it from companies such as Ericsson, ZTE, and Huawei. Thus an investment for the same needs to come from the government and the telecom operators.

Agrawal said that India would see 5G on the second-half of 2022. It is in contrast with what Mukesh Ambani has promised to the people of India. Ambani said that Jio would launch its homegrown 5G in the second half of 2021.

At the same time, Bharti Airtel’s Chairman, Sunil Mittal has expressed on several occasions that 5G is two to three years away from India. He has cited reasons such as over-priced spectrum and an underdeveloped 5G ecosystem in the country. Also, Vodafone Idea (Vi) is not in a financial position to move into 5G any time soon.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) in a report on January 22, 2021, said that the Indian telcos have lesser average spectrum holding (31 MHz) than the global average of 50 MHz. On top of this, the weak financial health of the industry will impact on the operators’ ability to purchase new spectrum, which will further impact the 5G rollout in the country.

Agrawal suggested that the government should increase the customs duty on the optical fibre imported to the country so that foreign vendors can be stopped from dumping their products in India. There is plenty of fibre supply to meet India's demands; thus, imports of the same should be discouraged.

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