Ericsson CEO wants India to incentivize investments in 5G infrastructure

Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm
Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm. Photo courtesy Ericsson

Ericsson Group chief executive officer and President Börje Ekholm has asked the Indian government to make 5G spectrum more affordable and incentivize investments in the country’s digital infrastructure.

The top executive said that “5G must be viewed as critical national infrastructure by all governments.” He said that the development funding 5G pilots to spectrum auctions.

“We see many countries around the world increasing investments in this space and I strongly encourage India to prioritize actions to incentivize investments in the digital infrastructure,” Ekholm said during an industry event held virtually. 

India has already embarked on its digital transformation journey with its ‘Digital India’ program, and the 5G technology will provide the stimulus to the Indian industries, resulting in significant economic value for the country, he said.

“Roads, ports and railroads were critical in the past, for the future competitiveness of a country, the digital infrastructure is the key,” he added.

India’s telecom department (DoT) had fixed 5G spectrum price last year based on sector regulator, the Trai’s recommendations in August 2018. The Trai had suggested that Rs 492 crore or $71 million should be the base price for per MHz of 3,300-3,600 MHz band, which will be used for providing 5G services in India.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea already conveyed to the government about their inability to bid for the 5G spectrum if the government moves ahead with the suggested base price.

Airtel chief executive officer Gopal Vittal said that the suggested base price of 5G airwaves proposed by the sector regulator remains exorbitant. “Airtel can’t afford to buy 5G spectrum in the 3.5 Ghz band at the current recommended base price,” he recently said during an analyst call.

Vittal also added that there was no business case that can justify the “exorbitant” 5G spectrum price.

India has already deferred 5G spectrum auction to sometime in 2021 due to the financial health of telecom operators like Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, and an underdeveloped local ecosystem around the 5G technology. However, the country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will go-ahead with 4G spectrum auction within this fiscal.

The Ericsson’s top executive said that 5G must be viewed as critical national infrastructure by all governments. “The ubiquitous connectivity being provided by networks during this period of the pandemic stands testimony to this…there has been a considerable growth in data traffic globally and in India during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He revealed that most telecom service providers witnessed a 10-20% growth in data traffic. “During lockdowns, the average time spent on mobile broadband increased by one hour globally on an average basis. However, in India, the average time spent on mobile broadband went up by 2.2 hours per day. This shows the importance of mobile broadband for the Indian user.”

Ekohlm said that nations may lag behind in terms of the competitiveness of their economy if they don’t build 5G infrastructure along with other nations. “5G will also offer significant advantages to the early movers and there is merit in businesses and countries accelerating their move to 5G,” he was quoted as saying by local media.

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