Updated: May 5, 2021 12:26:26 pm
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Tuesday allowed the three private telcos, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm and Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea) as well as state-run telco Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) to start 5G trials in the country. The initial duration of the trial will be 6 months, which includes 2 months for procurement and setting up of equipment.
“The trials are important because they reduce the time gap between 5G spectrum auction and roll out. On earlier occasions, trials happened after auctions. Now we are gaining time,” DoT Secretary Anshu Prakash told The Indian Express. The significance of 5G, Prakash said, is mostly in the application of technology and the government would want it to be put to use in telemedicine, education, agriculture, and public safety, among others.
For the trials this time, the telecom service providers (TSPs) will have to conduct tests in the rural and semi-urban settings in addition to their usual urban settings, the DoT said, so that test cases can be developed and tested for all users. 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution mobile broadband networks. 5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high-frequency spectrum — all of which have their uses and limitations.
During the trial phase over the next 6 months, the four telcos will get frequencies for testing in the 3.2 GHz to 3.67 GHz or the millimetre wave band and 24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz band, among others. Apart from this, telcos will also be allowed to use their existing spectrum in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2500 MHz band frequencies for the trials.
“Trials will be on a non-commercial basis. The data generated during the trials shall be stored in India. TSPs are also expected to facilitate the testing of the indigenously developed use cases and equipment as part of the trials,” the DoT said, urging the telcos to also conduct trials using 5Gi tech.
Of the four telcos that have been given the go-ahead to conduct the trials, the private telcos, Bharti Airtel, Jio and Vi, have tied up with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, respectively. State-run MTNL on the other hand has partnered the Centre for Development of Telematics for original equipment and technology to be used in 5G trials, the DoT said. “TSPs have a chance to choose vendors, their technology, and equipment by the conduct of trials. 5Gi, which has been advocated by India is also likely to be tested,” Prakash said.
The two major Chinese telecom equipment and technology vendors, Huawei and ZTE are conspicuous by their absence from the partner list of the three private telcos or the state-run telco MTNL. While there is no official bar on the deployment of equipment and technology from these two vendors, they have effectively been left out of the trials as no telcos requested permission to use their equipment. “We can only give permissions based on what the telco asked. No telcos asked to use their (Huawei and ZTE) equipment,” a senior DoT official said.
Though Huawei is the world’s largest maker of telecom equipment and the second-largest maker of mobile phone parts, the company’s alleged relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus had landed it in trouble more than once and eventually led to a ban on usage in multiple countries such as the US and the UK. In India, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had in December 2019 said all companies, including Huawei and ZTE, would be permitted to participate in the trials for 5G services. A border skirmish in April 2020, which left over 20 Indian soldiers dead, however, cast shadows on the two companies’ ability to participate in any telecom tenders.
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