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Adani and Vi seek extension on 5G launch August 16 deadline

Adani Data Networks and Vodafone Idea have likely urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to extend the August 16 deadline for meeting the minimum obligation to launch 5G services, according to people aware of the matter.

For Vodafone Idea, the delay in launching the 5G services can be attributed to the absence of funding, whereas Adani Group is still figuring out how it can deploy a 5G network in the 26 GHz band for captive networks, sources said.

Query sent to Adani Group and Vodafone Idea did not elicit any response till the time of going to press.

When contacted, telecom secretary K Rajaraman confirmed the development without disclosing the names of the companies.

“We have received a couple of requests from companies (for extension of minimum rollout obligation of 5G). Those are under examination at this point in time,” he said.

The Adani Group, which bought spectrum worth Rsv212 crore in six circles, could have either provided broadband services in any one area or connected any of its airport or port through data networks, analysts said.

Among the telecom operators, Vodafone Idea is the only one to not have launched 5G services as of now. The telecom operator is currently testing its 5G services across cities such as Delhi and Pune and is learnt to have deployed 36 tower sites, sources said. The commercial deployment by Vodafone Idea will start once it places order with the equipment makers.

“The company has made select 5G clusters in Delhi and Pune where it had partnered with various original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to test the compatibility of available 5G handsets. It has completed device testing of all major OEMs on its 5G network,” Vodafone Idea had said in its annual report for FY23.

Vodafone Idea CEO Akshaya Moondra had recently said, “MRO (minimum rollout obligation) is more a compliance requirement and we will work on that, but we are looking for a wider coverage.”

Vodafone Idea, however, also said it will continue to make investments for expanding 4G coverage and capacity, especially in its 17 priority circles and introduce 5G services once funding is in place.

Bharti Airtel and Jio are also yet to deploy 5G network in the 26 GHz band, owing to lack of device ecosystem in the spectrum, industry sources said.

Airtel did not respond to questions on the company’s 5G deployment plan in the 26 GHz spectrum band.

As per the year-one 5G roll-out obligations set by the government, the operators will have to commercially launch services anywhere in metro as well as non-metro circles. This means in a circle like Delhi, the services can be made available just in one area, not the entire city. In a non-metro circle, the same needs to be done in at least one city.

According to data from DoT as of July 2, Jio and Airtel have deployed 275,256 5G BTS (base transceiver station) in over 6,200 towns. Financial Express

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