Captive private 5G networks: BIF dismisses claims of ‘level playing field’ by telcos

S Ronendra Singh | Updated on: Jun 21, 2022
TV Ramachandran, President, BIF

TV Ramachandran, President, BIF | Photo Credit: BIF website

Says old age concept cannot apply in the case of captive private 5G network

The Broadband India Forum (BIG) on Tuesday has dismissed claims of a level playing field between the public and captive private 5G networks, as is being irrationally demanded by some quarters.

The leading independent think-tank and policy forum for digital communications, termed that as absurd and impractical, since the two are entirely different set of services for different requirements, are on completely different footings and are not competing with each other.

“The age-old and time-tested concept of ‘level playing field’ cannot apply in the case of captive private 5G networks, as they have several distinctive traits which distinguish them from public networks, with whom they are being compared without any logic or basis,” it said in a statement.

The reaction comes after Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) on Saturday asking the government to ensure that a level-playing field is maintained between the incumbents and new entrants for licence fees and meeting other regulatory conditions.

COAI that represents telcos, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea had said that they were disappointed that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has allowed setting up of a captive non-public network by obtaining spectrum directly from DoT, after a demand study by DoT and subsequent recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), in the notice inviting applications (NIA).

Captive usage very limited

However, BIF is saying that captive usage in a very limited geographical area of operations with defined Lat–Long coordinates, compared to licensed service area (LSA)/State or Circle-wide deployments in public networks.

It also said that the quantum of spectrum required is very small (going up to about 100 MHz) unlike the huge amounts of spectrum (almost 72,000 MHz) used by public networks.

And, also, while public networks are configured for ‘best effort’ SLAs to deliver average performance for external voice and data connectivity, private 5G networks are meant to serve extremely high reliability and ultra-high SLAs with low latency applications and ultra-high data rates for M2M/ IIoT/ automation/ industry 4.0/ robotics, it said.

On level playing field

“Seeking a level playing field with enterprises for captive private networks is akin to a child in kindergarten being asked to compete with someone who has a doctoral degree. No mature regulator anywhere in the world imposes regulation on a player with no or minimal market share,”TV Ramachandran, President, BIF, said.

Regulations are applied on mature players in competition, who have significant market share and can abuse it, he said.

“Enterprises will not be in the business of selling services or earning revenues through private 5G networks, but only use it for self-consumption. The credibility and rationale of such claims are questionable and require introspection,” Ramachandran added.

BIF reiterated that the Cabinet decision for permitting captive private 5G networks is a progressive and forward-looking one, and has been taken keeping in mind the overall growth and advancement of the nation, the vital aspects of consumer benefits, adoption of technology, and continued reforms, for the benefit of all stakeholders, eventually leading to greater economic as well as socio-economic gains for the country.

Published on June 21, 2022
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