NEW DELHI :
The telecom department has initiated the process of rolling out 5G networks in the country, with telecom operators set to begin testing the technology later this month.
All major telecom operators and equipment vendors on Tuesday met top officials of the department of telecommunications (DoT) to discuss the roadmap for trials. The meeting, chaired by telecom secretary Anshu Prakash, was attended by senior representatives of Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone Idea Ltd, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and all equipment vendors, including Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
“The broad roadmap for the trials was discussed. DoT is expected to allot spectrum in a few days and trials will happen in January-March," said a person aware of the matter, seeking anonymity.
An email query sent to DoT was unanswered till press time. A Huawei representative who attended the meeting declined to comment on the specifics of the discussion.
The meeting with telecom companies happened a day after the government said it has allowed all applicants, including China’s Huawei, to participate in 5G trials.
The DoT will allocate the trial spectrum to its licencees, which are telecom service providers, who can then choose to partner with vendors such as Nokia, Huawei, Ericsson and Samsung.
This has come as relief for Huawei, which has been facing global scrutiny over network security concerns. The US has claimed that Huwaei’s 5G equipment could be used by China to spy on other countries, an allegation the company has denied.
The approval for conducting 5G trials does not, however, automatically imply that Huawei’s equipment will be cleared for a commercial rollout in India.
In June 2019, DoT approved a one-year 5G trial period and a one-time fee of ₹5,000 for entities seeking experimental spectrum to conduct trials. The government also announced its intention to focus on three big social sectors for deployment of 5G—education, agriculture and healthcare. However, building use-cases in these sectors is still a work in progress. “So far, six proposals have been received, which includes those from China’s ZTE and Huawei. Any field trial in respect of 5G is to be carried out only through licensed telecom service providers in a restrictive, limited geographical area and for specific use case," telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Lok Sabha on 26 June.
Earlier this month, DoT approved prices for the next spectrum auction that will happen by April. Of the 8,300MHz of airwaves the government plans to offer, 6,050MHz have been allocated for 5G. The 3,300-3,600MHz band allocated for 5G has been priced at ₹492 crore per megahertz.
5G is the next generation of wireless technology and will boost data speeds and propel the Internet of Things, with the potential to bring radical changes in agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and education.
India’s 5G trials and commercial rollout are far behind global peers, which have even deployed commercial networks.
South Korea was the first to commercially start 5G services in April. China’s state-run telecom operators China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom rolled out 5G services in November to consumers in 50 Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.
US’s Verizon Communications Inc. kickstarted 5G services in October 2018 in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, using non-standard gear.