India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reportedly recommended that Big Tech companies like Google and Amazon – as well as Tata Consultancy Services and Cisco – be allowed to build private 5G networks for enterprises, which will be a blow to Indian telecom operators who have been fighting to oppose such a move.
The DoT has sent its recommendations to the Union Cabinet, which is expected to take up the matter in coming days. Once approved by the Cabinet, big tech companies and enterprises will be able to obtain 5G spectrum spectrum directly from the DoT to set up their own private captive networks, the Times of India reported.
That would be a setback for telcos, who have claimed that such a move will kill their 5G business and make it impossible for them to recover investments in 5G networks and auctioned spectrum.
In its recommendations note, the DoT highlighted several routes in which private captive 5G networks can be set up in areas such as smart factories, hospitals, educational institutes, agricultural players, ports, airports, and hotels.
“While private tech companies would be allowed to set up captive networks, the same would also be open for traditional telecom companies who will continue to have rights of being in the business too,” the recommendation letter says.
Last week, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, warned the government that direct spectrum allocations to enterprises would give them a backdoor entry into telecom services, threaten national security, and rob both licensed operators and the government of precious revenue.
The Broadband India Forum (BIF), which represents big tech companies, countered telcos’ claims, saying that enterprise 5G networks are best set up by enterprises themselves, rather than provided as a service by telcos, as enterprises have a better idea of what they need with 5G – and how to set it up – than telcos do.
“Under no count does the government stand to lose any revenue on account of direct spectrum allocation for private 5G networks to enterprises,” the BIF said. “Private 5G networks would, instead, provide an additional source of revenue, as enterprises would purchase spectrum at a price to be fixed by the government and allocated administratively,” the BIF said.