Telcos flag concerns over captive network issue at pre-bid conference ahead of 5G spectrum auction

PTI | | Updated on: Jun 20, 2022

Telcos also sought more clarity on matters related to network roll-out obligations, and also manner in which spectrum will be reserved

Telecom players raised technical queries related to 5G spectrum auction, and flagged their concerns over issue of private captive networks, during the pre-bid conference held by DoT on Monday.

The auction related pre-bid conference was attended by telecom operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, sources said.

The industry representatives attended the pre bid conference in hybrid mode, with some company executives physically present at the meeting held in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and others attending the meeting, virtually.

Sources said that one of the major issues flagged by the telcos in the Monday meeting related to the issue of private captive networks.

Telcos also sought more clarity on matters related to network roll-out obligations, and also manner in which spectrum will be reserved.

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea—the three mobile players operating in the 114-crore subscriber Indian telecom market—are gearing up for the launch of 5G services.

The government will auction, next month, about ₹4.3 lakh crore worth of airwaves capable of offering fifth-generation or 5G telecom services.

It has also given a nod for setting up of captive 5G networks by the tech firms, much to the dismay of telcos.

As much as 72 GHz of spectrum will be put on the block during the 5G auction, set to commence on July 26, 2022.

The 5G services will usher in high speeds—about 10 times faster than 4G—and spawn new-age offerings and business models.

Industry body COAI, in a recent letter to DoT, had expressed disappointment at government's decision on captive private networks.

COAI had demanded a level-playing-field, arguing that solution provider too should pay licence fee and GST at the rates applicable for telcos on the billed amount of revenue, and that such captive networks must remain "truly" private and isolated, and adhere to security norms.

COAI had argued that since a decision to enable the captive networks through direct spectrum assignment has been taken, the government must now restrict scope of such non-public networks to machine-to-machine communication inside the specific premise and plant automation only.

Such networks must ensure they do not cause any interference to public networks.

COAI had said that from national security perspective, these networks should comply with the prescribed subscriber verification norms, so as to ensure adequate verification and traceability of every user.

Periodic audit to ensure compliance must be carried out, said COAI whose members include Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

System integrators and other intermediaries should not be allocated such spectrum, COAI said.

Published on June 20, 2022
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