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For speeding 5G pvt networks, DoT examining direct spectrum allocation to enterprises

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is examining methodologies to directly allocate spectrum to enterprises like Infosys, Tejas Networks, Tata Communications, Tata Power, Larsen & Toubro, GMR, Capgemini, etc. It has set up an internal study group to suggest ways to achieve the objective.

Officials said that direct allocation of spectrum to these enterprises would enhance the adoption of 5G private networks. Currently, enterprises are dependent on telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea for building their private networks.

However, many large enterprises want to deploy private network solutions for their campuses or to run specific infrastructure projects without going through the telcos due to security and cost factors.

However, many large enterprises want to deploy private network solutions for their campuses or to run specific infrastructure projects without going through the telcos due to security and cost factors.

Industry executives say an open spectrum allocation policy for private networks will enable collaboration and partnerships among different stakeholders, including design companies, equipment manufacturers, service providers and academia.

A private network setup enables industries such as healthcare, automobile, manufacturing, ports, mining, etc, to experience high data speed and data carrying capacity within their premises, which may not be possible if they use public networks.

Unlike public networks, private mobile networks can be customised with specific security measures and encryption standards, which help protect sensitive data and provide a reliable and secure environment for critical operations.

In a recent white paper sent to DoT, industry group VoICE, which represents communication technology enterprises, said, “TSPs (telecom service providers) are known to add up to 40% of the cost for providing spectrum. Since the same spectrum can be reused, direct allocation of spectrum to enterprises and/or captive non-public networks (CNPN) service providers will substantially reduce the cost burden.”

The industry group represents companies like TCS, Tejas Networks, Saankhya Labs, HFCL, STL, among others.

According to a report by the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), India lags behind the US, Japan, Germany, the UK and China, among other geographies, with regard to the take up of private 5G networks. In India, the number of private networks deployed is expected to be around 10, compared to over 170 in the US, and over 50 in China and Germany.

According to VoICE, currently 16 countries have set aside a dedicated spectrum for private networks. This includes the US, Canada, France, Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, Finland, Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands.

“Spectrum in suitable IMT bands (like mid-band 3.3 GHz) may be assigned directly to enterprise and/or CNPN service providers administratively as per Trai recommendations and in spirit of New Telecommunication Act,” said Rakesh Bhatnagar, director general of VoICE.

“The same will reduce the dependence on TSPs and consequent influence on decision by existing equipment players. This will help domestic product companies come out with innovative products and solutions,” Bhatnagar added.

Besides dependency on telcos, another reason for a slow take-up of private networks in the country is the lack of use cases. In such a scenario, companies do not feel the urgency to transition from Wi-Fi or 4G LTE solutions to 5G inside their campuses or factories.

DoT is also studying 28 private 5G network projects for metro stations; railways; multiple mobile network in a box or limited areas which is suitable for oil companies, army, ships; 5G power grid; 5G mining whose potential clients could be companies like Coal India, NMDC, Vedanta, Hindalco; for rural connectivity, smart farming, among others.

The solutions have been presented by local telecom technology providers such as Lekha Wireless, Amantya Technologies, MatreComm Technologies, United Telecoms, Signaltron, Coral Telecom, among others.

“Currently, telecom operators are in a monopolistic position where they would provide spectrum at a cost which they want. This is limiting the number of active implementations of private networks in the country,” said Alka Selot Asthana, vice president and head regulatory affairs at Tata Communications, in her comments to Trai on a consultation paper.

“A light touch regulation that helps businesses to adopt 5G inside and outside the campus would be the key enabler for digital transformations to take place,” Asthana added. The Broadband India Forum said, “By virtue of being one-sixth of the global population, India should try to achieve at least around 200 private networks (4G and 5G) to be on par with the rest of the world.”

VoICE has also urged the government to allocate licences for private networks at nominal (annual or one time) fees to ensure fair opportunity to all sizes of enterprises and industry verticals in India.

Telecom operators have been opposing direct allocation of spectrum to enterprises for private networks. According to the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), allowing these companies to own the spectrum for private 5G will distort the level-playing field. The association said such allocation would result in creation of middle-men or intermediaries who would install and operate the network for enterprises without obtaining spectrum through auctions.

While giving its recommendations for 5G auctions in 200, Trai had proposed to reserve at least 40 MHz spectrum in the 3700-3800 MHz band, or mid-band, for private networks. In addition, the regulator had suggested reserving at least 40 MHz in 4800-4990 MHz and at least 400 MHz in 28.5-29.5 GHz, or the millimetre wave band, for private networks. However, DoT had rejected the recommendations. Financial Express

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