New Government’s New Policy
5g technology will support the uprise of the new digital communications policy and the Revival of ailing telecom public sector firms, policy on experimentation and trial spectrum for technologies in June will be the top plans of the Union Telecom Ministry over the next three months once the new government takes over.
Some of the vital decisions which are pending owing to the general elections for the past few months. Department of Telecommunications (DoT) officials said a Cabinet note on the revival plan of BSNL and MTNL, which are facing liquidity crunch amidst rising employee costs, has already been prepared and is expected to be taken up on a fast-track basis.
India wants to keep its date with the global 5G rollout in 2020. There’s a 100-day action plan prepared by the DoT which has put 5G technology trials and its experimentation with spectrum on its top priority. The new government at the Centre will have the task of issuing 5G network trial licenses to the telecom companies (telcos) along with the spectrum. “Simplifying the process of obtaining experimental licenses and establishing regulatory sandboxes like simplifying and fast-tracking approvals for products and services for experimental purposes through delicensing and other mechanisms and promoting establishment of test beds, incubations and innovation centres in collaboration with the industry and the academia are on the agenda,” said the 100-day action plan document. The allocation will take place as soon as the new government takes charge, which could be in June, and depending on their willingness, the telcos could start the initial 5G run in the same month. The network trial licenses will be issued before that, said an official source.
Another key decision that needs quick thumbs up from the government is the grant of license for 5G trials. The government has been moving fast for the adoption of new 5G technology and it is expected that the commercial rollout of 5G will start in 2020. the much-awaited spectrum auction will finally happen in the second half of 2019 where a whopping 8,293.95 Mhz of telecom frequencies at an estimated total base price of Rs 5.77 lakh crore are expected to go under the hammer. License fee eliminated by the government in the December quarter rose by 0.03 percent sequentially to Rs 2,890 crore, while Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) rose by 2 percent to Rs 1,064 crore, data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) showed. A Telecom Ministry panel has recommended spectrum for the test run to the incumbent telcos for a three-month period, which would be scalable to six to 12 months on special cases for further experimentation.
5G in India
Another area that has been waiting for decisions are settling issues on merger and transfers of licenses of the mergers— such as Airtel-Telenor, Airtel-TTSL, Vodafone-Idea among others. The new government will also face challenges since the telecom companies are still facing losses due to low tariffs on huge competition and high spectrum dues though the market has improved. The three equipment vendors who have got the green signal from the panel are Samsung, Nokia, and Ericsson, according to the sources. As for now, Jio is likely to partner with Samsung, Nokia with Airtel, and Vodafone Idea with Ericsson for the trial. The DoT has so far not taken any call on whether Chinese firm Huawei will be a part of the trial for any telecom services company. Continuous investment in their networks has become difficult for Airtel as well Vodafone Idea, which is still in the process of combining the two networks. Vodafone Idea has recently raised funds from a rights issue while Airtel is on a pursuit of raising funds.
5G will not only provide faster internet access but will mean that fewer transmitters will be needed to cover larger areas. While we will hopefully see 5G deployments in India by 2020, it will take another 3-4 years for the mass multiplication of the technology.