The panel, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, has convened a meeting on October 27 with top telecom companies to examine India’s 5G preparedness, where senior officials of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and sector regulator will also be present. They will collectively review the ground zero situation on India-relevant 5G use cases and the status of trials. The top telcos will make presentations on India’s 5G readiness before the committee.
The meeting comes at a time an apex panel of secretaries has asked the Department of Space (DoS) and the defence ministry to favourably consider DoT’s request to part with all idle 5G spectrum – both in the coveted 26 Ghz millimeter wave band and those in the 3.3-3.6 Ghz frequencies – for commercial use by telcos. DoT has urged the government to release a whopping 3,000 units of premium millimeter waves in the 26 Ghz band and 300 units in the 3.3-3.6 Ghz for 5G services. These airwaves are with DoS and the defence ministry.
The government, however, is yet to finalise timelines for India’s first 5G spectrum sale — likely next year — or the possible spectrum bands on offer. It is also yet to clear the air on whether Chinese gearmakers such as Huawei and ZTE will participate in the trials or sell 5G gear once the technology arrives.
The meeting of the Tharoor-led parliamentary panel also comes on the quick heels of Jio Platforms, the digital arm of Reliance Industries (RIL), and its wholly owned arm, Radisys Corp, in partnership with Qualcomm Inc announcing that it has developed an open and interoperable interface compliant architecture based 5G solutions with a virtualized RAN. Jio has already developed its own 5G technology that may be ready for field deployment next year.
Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel too has recently said it is developing 5G technologies in India through it own R&D and in collaboration with local, US and Japanese firms, underlining a shift in the telco’s strategy, which will see it develop its own intellectual property (IP), as against depending on third-party equipment vendors. Market leader Reliance Jio has been pushing the government for an early auction as it wants spectrum to cater to the needs of its expanding user base and replenishing airwave stocks that start expiring from July 2021.
Till recently, telcos such as Bharti Airtel appeared in no hurry on the 5G front, saying India could easily wait until 2022 for 5G, by which time the ecosystem, including India-specific use cases and devices, would be developed.