India’s major telecom operators have called on the industry regulator to drop a proposed decision to administratively allocate on-demand 5G spectrum for private company networks through a publicized process based on an online portal, warning that such step could destroy the business case for 5G in the country.

The companies said such a proposal, if accepted by the government, could potentially rob telecom operators of their future 5G enterprise revenue – estimated at around 40% of the total for 5G. Such a loss of revenue will not justify the capital expenditure for building 5G networks, they argued.

In its latest recommendations on 5G spectrum pricing, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) suggested that private companies obtain 5G spectrum directly from the government and establish their own captive wireless private network (CWPN). He also recommended a “lightweight” online portal-based regime for acquiring such permissions/licenses for setting up CWPNs. Trai also suggested that private companies have the option of leasing spectrum from telecom operators to set up their own captive private 5G networks.

“By allowing private captive networks for businesses, Trai is dramatically changing the dynamics of the industry and harming the financial health of the telecom industry rather than improving it,” the Cellular Operators Association of India said on Tuesday ( COAI).

COAI represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi). He added that “business services make up 30-40% of the (telecommunications) industry’s overall revenue…private networks are once again discouraging the telecommunications industry from investing in networks and continuing to pay high levies and taxes”.

COAI, in fact, has urged Trai to revisit its latest recommendations and ban private company networks to ensure the financial viability and orderly growth of the telecommunications industry which it says is more than capable of providing these business services.

Mobile operators previously told Trai that any proposal to reserve 5G spectrum for private company networks for captive use, free or at an administrative price, would also be legally untenable.

Trai recommended that spectrum for private networks be allocated administratively on demand through a process based on a widely publicized online portal in a fair and transparent manner. But the regulator left it up to the telecommunications department to decide whether such an administrative allocation would be legally defensible or not, based on the DoT’s spectrum allocation policy.

In its 5G discussion paper, Trai said countries like Germany, Finland, the UK, Brazil, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan have set aside spectrum in the mmWave band for private 5G captive networks, while Slovenia, Sweden and Korea planned to reserve both mmWave spectrum and mid-band 5G spectrum for these captive networks.

Subsequently, companies such as Tata Communications (TCL), Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and cigarette maker ITC strongly countered the position of telecom operators and called on Trai to support the allocation of private captive spectrum networks. dedicated and adopt global practices to create private 5G. ecosystem for businesses to drive the government’s Make in India vision.

But another senior telecoms official said if carriers’ potential 5G revenue came from the lucrative corporate vertical business, they would see no commercial sense in aggressively bidding for 5G airwaves in the upcoming sale.

Much of the auction appetite for 5G waves, he said, stems from the strong revenue potential of B2B companies. But if that revenue stream disappears, telecom operators won’t have a viable business case for spending big bucks on 5G spectrum, especially since they have enough spectrum to continue their existing operations. mobile broadband services.

Tech companies, however, have strongly backed Trai’s call for allowing private companies to obtain 5G spectrum directly from the government through the administrative route.

“In terms of private networks, Trai’s recommendations serve the interests of TSPs (telecommunications service providers), businesses and the public, as more private networks would lead to more job and business opportunities, and would result in greater production and economic benefits,” Broadband said. India Forum (BIF), which counts among its main members Cisco, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Meta, owner of Facebook, Qualcomm and Intel.

Assigning exclusive spectrum to private 5G networks, he said, would also provide “an improvement over the average SLAs (service level agreements) of public networks, in addition to ensuring a complete absence of ‘interference between them’.

BIF added that Trai’s call for administrative spectrum allocation for private 5G networks “is the most appropriate” because he considered that private wireless captive networks are not public networks and do not have customers in the market, and are limited to a specific location.

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