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Private 5G crucial for enterprises, BIF writes to DoT

Broadband India Forum President, T.V. Ramachandran, in a letter to Department of Telecommunications Secretary, K. Rajaraman, highlighted the urgent need for Private 5G.

Here is the letter in full:

“We understand that the Department of Telecommunications is in the process of examining the recommendations made by TRAI on ‘Auction of Spectrum in frequency bands identified for IMT/5G’. We are positive that a decision will be taken by the Department in this regard, keeping in mind the vital aspects of consumer benefits, adoption of technology, and continued reforms, for the benefit of all stakeholders, eventually leading to greater economic gains for the country.

We would like to take this opportunity to highlight a particular aspect of the recommendations pertaining to Private 5G Networks, which we believe, addresses the interests of all the stakeholders – the TSPs, the enterprises, as well as the public, since more private networks would lead to more employment opportunities and business, translating
into greater economic gains.

Sir, as you are aware, India needs higher efficiencies in verticals like Manufacturing, Healthcare, Education, Agriculture, Financial Inclusion and many others to accelerate the process of digital transformation, which is a National Priority. This can best be achieved through use of Private 5G Networks. With our aspiration to become a global manufacturing and supply chain hub, Private 5G would be crucial for the enterprises to augment efficiencies, enhance productivity and march towards Industry 4.0.

A Public Telecom Network set up by a telecom licensee would necessarily have to be one which optimises the various needs of a diverse population. It would be ‘tunable’ to a limited extent to meet specific enterprise ‘QoS’ needs. Hence, they would not be geared to meet the higher and specific SLAs that are characteristic of specific industry verticals. For example, the needs and requirements would be quite different of a Maruti-Suzuki automotive factory from that of an Apollo Hospital or of an IIT Delhi campus, and so on. In fact, these may even vary within the same vertical. For example, the specific needs of a Honda factory may be different from that of a Toyota. A Maruti or an Apollo would know its system and requirements far better than anyone else, and therefore, would be able to customise and design a private 5G network and applications for themselves accordingly.

Since OEMs setup the traditional telecom networks on behalf of the telcos presently, they could deploy and operate their own 5G Non-Public Networks (NPN). Siemens has done the same in Germany. A Samsung manufacturing facility in Noida or a Nokia plant in Sriperumbudur, could also do likewise to digitalise their various verticals.

Moreover, an enabling framework consisting of 2 distinct processes has been recommended by TRAI: establishment of private networks for enterprises by TSPs through their assigned spectrum, and through enterprises directly obtaining spectrum from the Government in an administrative manner. Therefore, Private 5G Networks can be set up and operated by TSPs, Equipment Providers, Infra players or Enterprises – A Win-Win for All!!

TSPs have also been provided the option of leasing part of their spectrum to Enterprises at an affordable cost. This is in line with global best practices as the option of spectrum leasing has been opened in many leading economies such as Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Malaysia, UK, USA, etc.

Having considered that Captive Wireless Private Networks are not Public Networks, have no market customers, and are limited to a specific location; TRAI has most appropriately recommended that the spectrum is to be assigned administratively, in line with global practices. It is also laudable that the Authority has stated it would recommend pricing keeping in mind transparency, geographical aspects, factoring of market price, etc. for the Private Networks.

Sir, there seems to be an evident lack of clarity on the concept of captive networks, in some quarters even within the industry. It needs to be clearly understood that Private Networks would not be addressing the retail market and they would need the dedicated spectrum within the local campus only and the same spectrum, if required, can be reused elsewhere. Only a limited amount of spectrum (about 100 MHz, depending on the specific spectrum bands) would be required and is to be used/deployed within the geographical boundaries of the premises (with specific lat-longs) and not in the entire LSA/Circle. Moreover, there will be no connectivity to PSTN or any other PLMN/ISP, while the Spectrum would be majorly needed for IoT, Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Robotics, Logistics, etc. – not permissible for external communications. So there is no conflict here at all!

It is also often misunderstood in certain quarters, that Private 5G Networks would lead to revenue losses for the Telcos. In actuality, in the present scenario, majority of the enterprise revenues of TSPs would be through external network services which comprise of voice and data communications. Captive usage in the current situation would only contribute a minor share in processes/applications like robotics, automation, etc., due to challenges in delivering the required SLAs through public networks. Therefore, the speculated loss in revenues for telcos via enterprise services is a misplaced one.

In fact, a more efficient captive network through Private 5G would lead to increased productivity for the enterprise, which would help grow business activities/external communications, thereby driving better revenues for the TSPs. E.g. a 5G NPN in P&G would drive business efficiencies, whereby activities would be enhanced, and more co-ordinations would lead to enhanced traffic to be carried by TSPs through the external network. New enhanced revenue streams could flow to the telcos.

Sir, in all practicality, it needs to be acknowledged that many leading economies have already implemented and are running operational 5G networks for nearly 2 years now. Our learnings from the past deployments of 3G/4G indicate that it is likely to take a few years for a significant country-wide public 5G network to be operationalised effectually in India, due to the extensive preparation work required for network architecture and optimisation, fibre laying – both to towers and intra-city, streamlining of RoW procedures, street furniture readiness, etc. In the meanwhile, we cannot afford to stay behind and 5G NPNs provide India an excellent opportunity to catch up with the world and showcase early adoption of 5G across several different verticals – be it healthcare, education, manufacturing, or more, and extracting its manifold benefits therein.

An illustration of the same is as follows: Although India has a huge coastline, our ports are not the most utilised in global shipping/logistics business. With implementation of 5G NPNs and the resultant increase in efficiencies in the harbour operations, Indian ports could become highly competitive globally, bringing in significantly higher business/revenues and adding to the national economy and growth. Ports can gain through substantial economic gains and fuel savings owing to increased efficiency and productivity, as established by case studies* of 5G test beds/innovation labs in ports like Hamburg, Livorno, etc.

In this regard, you may kindly recall my earlier letter to you dated 30th December 2021 (Ref. No. TVR/0216/02) on “Facilitating 5G Private Networks for accelerating India’s Digital Economy”, whereby I had respectfully shared with you a Report on ‘Non Public 5G Networks in India: Policy, Regulatory and Sector Perspective’, authored by Prof. Rekha Jain, a noted academician, Visiting Professor at ICRIER and former Chair of the IIM-A TCOE.

*Case Study: The aforementioned Report (copy enclosed as Annexure 1 for your ready reference) by Prof. Jain notes –

  • Livorno Port (Italy) achieved substantial economic benefits and considerable savings in fuel on implementation of a 5G testbed, due to more efficient turnaround of ships at anchor, reduced berthing time, and more efficient operation of ship to shore cranes, forklift cranes, automated guided vehicles, condition monitoring and drone surveillance.
  • Similar estimations for Indian Ports based on relevant conditions indicate:
  1. Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) could derive benefits in RoI ranging from 53% – 138%
  2. Chennai Port could derive benefits in RoI to the tune of 31% – 76%.

Moreover, the utility and applicability of 5G would be equal or perhaps even more in non- urban/semi-urban/rural locations because of its need for improving efficiencies in verticals like agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and other segments, for yielding better outputs in a more cost-efficient manner. It would be most unreasonable to expect public 5G networks to be rolled out in these remote/rural areas in the initial years. Therefore, Private 5G Networks can be set out concurrently, so that they don’t miss the bus in its wait. For e.g. a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in a lesser known place like Haldwani or Chapra or Malda could achieve high efficiencies and productivity through Private 5G.

A certain amount of exclusive spectrum (non-public 5G) has been recommended by TRAI to be earmarked for private 5G networks. This will provide an improvement over the average SLAs of Public Networks, besides complete lack of interference between them. This will, in turn, accelerate Digital Transformation of Enterprises to Industry 4.0, and boost both ‘Atmanirbharta’ & ‘Make in India’. It will also create a platform for a new wave of start-ups to focus on 5G enabled IoT solutions.

A very light touch online portal based paperless regime for acquiring permission/license for ‘Captive Wireless Private Network (CWPN)’ within 30 days of application, as recommended, would enable ease of doing business (EoDB).

Sir, as is evident from the aforementioned points, these balanced recommendations from TRAI on Private 5G networks, once formalised into policy, would be a win-win for all. India would not need to wait for pan-India rollout of public networks to enjoy the benefits of 5G. In fact, learnings from the use of Private 5G Networks can be used to build competence and significant expertise, and further be leveraged for wider deployment of our nation-wide Public network.

We earnestly look forward to your kind consideration and early implementation of these forward- looking recommendations, which would pave a progressive path forward for not just telecom, but various vital industry segments, eventually leading to greater economic benefits and technological progress for our country.”

CT Bureau

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