Telcos Raise Demands for Financial Aid and Favourable Terms from DoT for 5G Rollout

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Incumbent telecom operators in the industry have drafted a letter to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) asking for support from the government to start 5G or fifth generational network trials. The telcos have specifically asked for financial aid, backhaul spectrum, and duty-free telecom gear to kickstart fifth generation 5G technology based field trials. The letter was dated February 7 and was spotted by ET Telecom which said that the government “must provide financial support” to the telecom service providers and permissions and fee for network equipment purchase should be waved off.

COAI Reaches Out to DoT to List Favourable Terms for 5G Rollout

The letter was drafted by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) which represents telcos like Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and vendors like Cisco, Ciena, Huawei, Ericsson and Sterlite. To recall, the DoT has already invited the gear vendors and telecom operators to work together, do pilot testing of 5G network and come up with India centric use-cases by early 2019. The government is planning to roll out 5G services by 2020.

The only trouble with the adoption of the new 5G technology is that the telecom industry, except for Reliance Jio, is stacked under a debt of Rs 7 lakh crore and as such the public sector banks are reluctant to fund new initiatives by the top three telecom operators. In the letter, which was seven-page long, COAI director, Rajan Matthews highlighted that the telcos should be able to choose original equipment manufacturer (OEM) independently. He also said that there should be a single point of contact for all clearances related to the adoption of new technologies.

The association also confirmed the availability of the C band (3300-3600) and 1800 Mhz in addition to Millimeter Wave (mmWave) 26 Ghz and 28 GHz spectrum band for backhaul at last mile, in its letter to the DoT. It is worth noting that both 28 Ghz in addition to frequency range proposed by the regulator is essential for the operators as countries are commercially launching on both bands. Also, the telcos have been seeking the E band for fronthaul and backhaul in the interim of the trial period.

DoT to Seek Trai’s Views on New Bands for 5G Rollout

Matthew said that the passive infrastructure in the trial period should not be charged, he noted in the letter, “The number of test subscribers for the trial period should be based on the agreement between telecom service providers and equipment makers.” Matthews also asked about clarification about whether or not the telcos could use the airwaves for the next two years and beyond the locations set apart for trials. Further, he also posed questions relating to what would happen to the investment by telcos on equipment post the trials.

On Monday, the DoT held a meeting to discuss the demands raised by the telcos. To recall, back in August 2018, a high-level 5G Forum led by Stanford University professor AJ Paulraj suggested that newer frequency bands be released for further action and study, in addition to a Rs 1,600 crore broad planning estimate which would span over four years. Currently, the DoT is yet to see Trai’s view on the new bands to be considered for 5G rollout.

The committee also made suggestions that if a telecom service provider wishes to switch to a revenue deployment from a trial deployment, then they should be provided favourable terms to purchase spectrum in the auction.

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Junior Editor

Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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