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VOICE writes to DoT for direct spectrum allocation for private networks

Technology firms such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Tejas Networks and Sterlite Technologies, among others, on Monday urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to reserve spectrum for private networks and also allow its direct allocation to enterprises.

The companies wrote to DoT through VoICE consortium, which counts domestic companies and startups in the digital communications technology space as its members.

According to VoICE, DoT’s argument of giving spectrum on lease from telcos for private networks is a setback for companies in the manufacturing sector, PSUs like ONGC, and others in power and refinery sectors. In the absence of direct allocation, there would be restrictions from telcos for players like Tejas networks, Infosys, GMR and Larsen & Toubro. This is because of the legacy mindset of telcos and their intent to control systems.

Enterprises can set up their own networks using private networks that have their own dedicated frequency bands. These networks prioritise how data is transmitted, improve signal coverage and ensure that the network is secure. 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.

“To effectively establish and operate private mobile networks, the allocation of dedicated spectrum is crucial, and any restrictions and control will be an impediment to growth, innovation and experimentation,” said Rakesh Kumar Bhatnagar, director general of VoICE (Voice of Indian Communication Technology Enterprise).

According to Bhatnagar, the dependence on telcos for private networks will act as a deterrent with regard to adoption of solutions developed by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). “Creativity and experimentation will be sacrificed in favour of legacy protection, and cost of deployment (of private networks) will be high,” Bhatnagar said, adding that an open spectrum allocation will benefit the design development of 4G or 5G technology by leveraging domestic players.

“Review of the decision will result in even higher growth in the country’s GDP and faster reach out satisfying all private enterprise needs from remotest pockets of industrial growth,” VoICE consortium said in an email to communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, telecom secretary K Rajaraman and other DoT members.

The development comes days after DoT decided against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai’s) recommendation for direct allocation of spectrum to enterprises for private 5G and reserving the spectrum for them.

While giving its recommendations for 5G auctions last year, the 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 rejected the recommendation on the grounds that administrative spectrum allocation might raise questions like that of what happened in 2G case.

Among other key issues cited by the consortium from giving telcos the mandate of private 5G are telcos preferring their own equipment vendors and neglecting small equipment vendors.

As part of the demand study for private 5G networks, companies such as Tejas Networks, Infosys, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Tata Communications, among others, submitted their applications for getting spectrum directly from the government.

“Allocation of spectrum directly to private enterprise is the best way here since telecom service provider’s use-case development cycles are extremely slow. Enterprises are far better equipped in terms of domain knowledge and IT skilled workforce which is the main requirement for use case development,” L&T told Trai in its response paper on the subject last year.

“Providing the authority only to telecom service providers can create several hindrances and enterprises will not be able to reap the true benefit,” Sterlite Technologies had said in its response to Trai.

According to market research reports, the global market for private LTE and 5G networks is likely to grow at a CAGR of at least 40% over the next few years and the growth for India could be even higher. Financial Express

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