India’s telecom department will identify spectrum bands to allocate airwaves for private 5G networks, and the telecom regulator will provide recommendations regarding pricing. According to the official, as some technology companies have requested, the government is unlikely to give away airwaves administratively.
“We will identify the bands, after which we will seek recommendations from TRAI on the pricing,” the official said, asking not to be named since the discussions were yet to begin.
The official added that the government had received multiple applications from a handful of major companies that have sought licenses for multiple locations, taking the number of total applications to more than a dozen and a half.
According to reports, leading companies, including Infosys, Capgemini, GMR, Larsen & Toubro, Tata Communications, Tata Power and Tejas Networks, applied for the direct allocation of airwaves for setting up captive non-public 5G networks.
Technology companies backed by the Broadband India Forum, which counts Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Cisco, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Meta, Qualcomm and others as its key members, have been seeking spectrum for private 5G administratively or without any charge, because the private 5G networks were exclusively meant for use by the enterprises within their limited, defined geographic areas and not meant for public or commercial use. They have further cited examples of some major global markets that have chosen to provide airwaves to private networks administratively.
Direct allocation from the department has been a bone of contention, with telecom companies claiming it would dent telcos’ revenues from enterprise customers. Telecom operators have further demanded that the companies wanting to set up 5G non-public networks should bid for the spectrum they want to buy and hence participate in auctions.
Taking the route of an auction for private networks has been criticized as irrational since such networks cannot be compared to public 5G networks.