New Delhi: The Department of Telecom (DoT) is not in favor of reserving mid-band spectrum for closed private networks as proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), posing a possible setback to companies such as Infosys, GMR and Tata Communications.
Spectrum in the mid-band (3,300-3,670 MHz) was recently auctioned for 5G services and the DoT felt that reserving it for private networks would result in a loss to the exchequer, a senior official said. If any company wants to get spectrum, it should pay a market-determined price for it, the DoT claims, this person said. “We are still in the process of finalizing the spectrum for private networks, but mid-band reservation is not likely to happen.” We will explore some other bands, apart from what has been suggested by the regulator,” the official told ET.
The DoT’s stance gains significance as the mid-band is the primary spectrum for 5G and all three mobile operators bought airwaves in the July auction. Trai has recommended a price of €317 million per MHz for the mid-range. In the same set of recommendations, the regulator also suggested reserving a block of at least 40 MHz in the 3,700-3,800 MHz band for private networks. That spectrum is currently used by some broadcasting and satellite companies, but given its great potential for 5G, the DoT wants to auction it off.
Apart from the mid-band, Trai has recommended reserving a block of at least 40 MHz in the 4,800-4,990 MHz band for private networks and at least 400 MHz in the 28.5-29.5 GHz band (millimeter wave band) for private networks as well as satellite earth stations .
Interestingly, the Adani Enterprises unit bought 100 MHz spectrum in the millimeter wave band in six circles in the July auction for its private network. Unlike the midband, the prices for the millimeter wave band are low — at 6.99 million dinars per Mhz — and are more suitable for private networks or satellite companies.
ET had earlier reported that companies such as Infosis, GMR, Larsen & Toubro and Tata Communications had applied to the DoT seeking direct allocation of spectrum in the bands identified by Trai, including the mid band for private networks.
Once DoT identifies more spectrum bands, it will ask Trai to give a price for spectrum allocation to private networks.
DoT has received over 18 applications for direct spectrum allocation, although there is more than one application from the same group of companies. These applications were made in response to an exercise initiated by the DoT to test spectrum demand for setting up private networks. The issue of direct spectrum allocation to companies for setting up private 5G networks was contentious, pitting technology firms against telecom operators.
Since June, when the cabinet approved a proposal to directly allocate spectrum to businesses, telcos have opposed the move, arguing it would undermine the level playing field and give tech players backdoor access to providing 5G services to businesses. Tech companies want spectrum directly from the government for closed networks, saying businesses should not be dependent on telcos.
According to the initial guidelines on private networks released by the DoT, businesses looking to set up their own networks can lease spectrum from telecom operators or get it directly from the DoT. Businesses can also ask telecom operators to roll out their own private networks. For example, Bharti Airtel recently signed a pact with partner Tech Mahindra to deploy a closed private network at Mahindra’s Chakan facility.
DoT has also not given any deadline for direct spectrum allocation.