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DoT to seek TRAI estimates on 5G airwave pricing for private networks

The telecom department will identify spectrum bands for the direct allocation of airwaves for private 5G networks and then seek recommendations from the telecom regulator on the pricing, a top official said, indicating the government is unlikely to hand out airwaves administratively as was being demanded by some tech companies.

After several studies, the telecom department has concluded that demand was not very high. “Only five companies have applied…so the demand is very small,” the official said.

“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 which 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, on the grounds that 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.

The Broadband India Forum said that taking the route of an auction for private networks was irrational since such networks could not be compared with public 5G networks. Livemint

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