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It seems that after being pulled up by the parliamentary committee on lack of preparedness for 5G, the department of telecommunications (DoT) is likely to announce the schedule for 5G trials in the coming few days. The DoT has already undertaken a meeting with telecom operators as well as equipment makers regarding the trials. After hearing from the industry, telecom secretary Anshu Prakash, held a meeting with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on February 16, to give an update.
The DoT has assured the telecom operators that it will soon announce the 5G trial schedule. The standing committee on information technology, chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, has pulled up DoT for not doing sufficient preparatory work for launching of 5G services in India. The committee said at a time when many countries are swiftly moving towards 5G technology, India is likely to witness its deployment only by the end of 2021 or early part of 2022, that too partially.
“So, it is very likely that after missing the 2G, 3G, and 4G bus, India is going to miss on 5G opportunities, unless time-bound action is taken in core areas where governmental intervention is required. It is disappointing to note that the department has hardly learnt from the past delays…,” the panel noted.
Although, the telecom operators had submitted their applications in January last year, the trials have not been conducted so far. One of the reasons for the delay, include concerns around participation of Chinese players Huawei and ZTE. The government has so far not banned any company from participating in trials but due to border tensions between the two countries, rules have been tightened. For instance, last year the government had decided to bar companies based in countries sharing land border with India from any government procurement and contract. But now that tensions are easing, it needs to be seen if Chinese vendors would be allowed to participate or not.
Telecom operators have submitted multiple applications for the trials with multiple vendors. Sources in DoT told Financial Express, that to start with, approvals will be given to those applications termed as priority by telecom operators. The government will allocate 3.5 Ghz spectrum for the trials to the operators. Although mobile operators are very enthusiastic about the trials, equipment makers like Nokia and Ericsson are not much enthused as 5G has already been commercially launched in various countries. Also, since 5G spectrum won’t be auctioned in the upcoming sale, there is a sense of uncertainty among the vendors. Setting up a trial network at one location entails investment of around `150-200 crore, and all this has to be borne by the vendors.
The trials will give an opportunity to Reliance Jio to test its locally developed 5G solution. The company had earlier sought approval from DoT for lab testing of its solution.
Globally there are 118 operators in 59 countries that have deployed 5G network. Currently, the 5G network covers around 7% of the world population and it is expected that by 2025, 20% of the world population will be covered by 5G. Countries where 5G has been launched include USA, Canada, UK, European Union nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain.