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DoT sends show cause notices to Vi, ADN over 5G rollout failures

Vodafone Idea and Adani Group’s, Adani Data Networks, have been sent show cause notices by the department of telecommunications as to why fines should not be levied on them for failing to meet minimum rollout obligations related to 5G spectrum.

While Vodafone Idea may have to pay a fine of around Rs 14 crore, Adani Data Networks may be slapped with a penalty of about Rs 5-6 crore, officials said.

The DoT has also sent notices to both the companies asking them to furnish the reasons for the delay and timelines by which they will be launching services.

Vodafone Idea and Adani Data Networks did not respond to queries till the time of going to the press.

As per the year-one 5G rollout obligations, operators had 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.

More than a year later, both Vodafone Idea and Adani Data Networks are yet to launch 5G services commercially even in a single city, in the country. For Adani, the spectrum deployment would be for private captive network for its data usage in ports and logistics, power generation, etc, and not consumer mobility.

In August last year, Vodafone Idea did say that the company had made some minimum investments in two out of 17 circles (where it bought the spectrum), to meet minimum rollout obligation. However, it is yet to launch the services commercially.

“Needless to say, our intent is to not look at only doing the MRO (minimum rollout obligation) thing, we would want to roll out a commercial network,” Vodafone Idea CEO Akshaya Moondra had said in August.”If we look at the 15 circles where we have not rolled out currently, over a period of 26 weeks, this amount (penalty) is up to the order of about Rs 12 crore to Rs 13 crore,” Moondra added.

While Vodafone Idea has not officially talked about its 5G rollout, its website says, “Get ready to experience the potential of the Vi 5G network in India with 5G live at select places in Pune and Delhi. Seamless connectivity with Vi 5G ready SIM”.

In 5G spectrum auctions held in July 2022, Adani Data bought 400 MHz spectrum in the 26 GHz band for Rs 212 crore. The company has 100 MHz of 5G spectrum each in Gujarat and Mumbai and 50 MHz each in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.Sources said, Adani Group is still figuring out how it can deploy a 5G network in the 26 GHz band for captive networks.

According to analysts, the company could have either provided broadband services in any one area or connected any of its ports through data networks.

In July last year, FE had reported that both Vodafone Idea and Adani Data Networks had also sought extension of the August 16, 2023 deadline for meeting the minimum obligation to launch 5G services.

For Vodafone Idea, the delay in launching the 5G services can be attributed to the absence of funding. As of November 2023, both Airtel and Jio have set up close to 400,000 5G sites. Jio claims to have completed the 5G rollout pan-India ahead of the schedule, whereas Airtel looks to complete the same by March.

Currently, 5G subscribers on Airtel and Jio networks combined have topped the 150-million mark, according to industry estimates. Financial Express

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