scorecardReliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone have 10 days to submit their bids for 5G trials while a lot remains undecided
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Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone have 10 days to submit their bids for 5G trials while a lot remains undecided

Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone have 10 days to submit their bids for 5G trials while a lot remains undecided
Business3 min read
Indian telecom players have 5 days to submit fresh bid for the 5G spectrum trials    Business Insider India

  • The government has announced that telecom operators have 5 days to submit their bid for 5G trials in the next ten days.
  • However, there are a few, but crucial, details about the 5G rollout that are yet to be decided.
  • This includes Huawei’s participation that still hinges on conditions and the lack of pricing of the 26 GHz band — marked for super-fast connectivity.
Telecom operators — like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea — have 10 days to submit their bids for the upcoming 5G trials.

But there’s still a lot of uncertainty around how 5G networks are going to work. From Huawei’s participation to the coveted 26 GHz band, telecom companies have a tough ride ahead of them.

Even though the government has said, time and again that its vision is to see India lead the world in 5G, the process has been plagued by continued delays. 5G networks are already live in South Korea, the US and China while India is yet to test its connectivity.

The Department of Telecommunication declared that the auction for the 5G spectrum will take place between March and April 2020 but is yet to specify when the network trials will begin.

Shorter time, fewer airwaves

Instead of the usual 365 days to test network connectivity, the Indian government is only giving telecom operators 6-months to try out their 5G technology.

The good news is that they will allowed to bid for the 26 GHz band — recognised by the Global System for Mobile (GSM) as one of three bands capable of delivering super-fast speeds.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is yet to set a floor price for the airwaves.

In addition, the quantum of airwaves that they will be able to auction is not specified either. This includes the 3300-3600 MHz band and the 700 MHz band. The government asserts that operators will be given as much as they seek, depending on the use case proposals.

China cheers for Huawei and India remains cautious

China has hailed India’s decision to include the Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE in the upcoming 5G trials. The companies themselves are excited about the prospect to supply one of the biggest telecommunications markets in the world. But, there’s a catch.

While Huawei will be allowed to participate in the trials, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be allowed to set up shop when 5G officially gets deployed.

"The telecom department will evaluate 5G trials for security vulnerabilities before taking a final call on the vendors who will be allowed to deploy the next generation airwaves in the country," a source told ET.

China’s celebration of the decision may be premature if Huawei doesn’t meet the Indian government’s requirements. India’s stand is understandably cautious. It has to balance the US pressuring its allies to ban Huawei against China threatening the country with economic sanctions. Nonetheless, it poses a conundrum for telecom operators.

Even if they’re willing to choose Huawei as their vendor, there’s no certainty if or when the Indian government might pull its support. The decision already facing pressure on the domestic front from the economic wing of the Swadeshi Jagram Manch (SJM).

"Presence of Chinese companies in our telecommunication network would compromise on the nation’s security," SJM wrote in a letter to Prime Minister earlier this week.

The high price of the 5G spectrum — 30-40% more expensive than South Korea and the US, according to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) — combined with licensing fees and low average return per user have telecom operators in a financial bind.

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea are still struggling despite having hiked tariffs in December. With many details yet to be decided, they only have 10 days to plan for 5G and submit fresh bids to the Indian government.

See also:
Five reasons why telecom operators may win the battle for 5G against ISRO

10 reasons why 2020 will be the Year of 5G

Huawei’s ‘survival’ plan is off to a good start as India clears it for 5G trials