COAI has urged DoT to block Big Tech from acquiring private 5G spectrum

private 5G ITC COAI
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The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has urged the government authority to not allow direct 5G spectrum allotments to systems integrators and intermediaries in a bid to block the entry of “Big Tech” companies in the 5G market.

COAI, which represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, has shot off a letter to the  Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and also sought the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Through COAI, telcos have asked the government to ensure that captive private 5G networks are set up strictly by enterprises or corporates and not “third parties”, namely system integrators and Big Tech companies. They warned that failure to do so will give them a backdoor entry into telecom services.

“Third parties intending to provide, install and operate captive private networks should be mandated to obtain airwaves through the same process as telcos,” COAI said in its letter, according to the Economic Times.

“As such (5G captive network) solutions can be provided by licensed TSPs (operators) having spectrum acquired through auction in a transparent manner, the solution provider (any other party who sets up a private captive network) should pay licence fees and GST at the rates applicable for TSPs on the billed amount of revenue to ensure level playing field,” it added.

Telcos have sought clarity on the scope and conditions for allocation of spectrum for captive private 5G networks.  This clarity, they said, will allow them to prepare for “meaningful participation” in the 5G auction sale next month.

Telcos have claimed that 40% of potential 5G revenue is expected to come from enterprise services – hence, their bidding strategy will require proper clarity on private 5G networks.

COAI said in its letter that access to spectrum without auctions would allow tech companies to offer similar 5G services to enterprises at a much lesser cost.

COAI also urged the government to assign spectrum for captive private networks only in non-IMT (which is to say non-5G) bands.

“Taking away chunks of crucial [5G] spectrum to dedicate them to verticals runs a serious risk of fragmenting available spectrum – reducing their carrying capacity – and threatens the wider success of 5G and poses threats to national security,”reported citing the letter.

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