ITEM: India’s department of Telecommunications (DoT) has a 5G roadmap, and in June it’s going to show it to you.
The government’s 5G Forum – which was set up last September by the DoT to bring together academics and telecoms players to plot out a strategy for rolling out 5G by 2020 – has been busy setting up test beds and pilots. Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said at an event organized by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that the forum’s roadmap set and ready by June, reports ET Telecom:
“India has a huge stake in 5G unlike other countries. It is very important for India as we are rapidly digitizing and digitalizing. Government is working with industry, academia, ecosystem and startups,” Sundararajan said.
Sundararajan added that India doesn’t want to lag behind 5G adoption – as it has with previous Gs – in part because it also wants to play a role in developing intellectual property rights and innovation within the 5G ecosystem while it’s still early days.
The roadmap will also incorporate India’s BharatNet project that aims to connect all of India’s panchayats (village blocks) with fiber-optic broadband by March 2019.
Meanwhile, Sundararajan said the upcoming National Telecom Policy 2018 will contain elements to facilitate the 5G roadmap, including spectrum, regulatory clarity and the creation of innovation “sandboxes”. The new policy is scheduled to be unveiled in the next session of Parliament, ET Telecom reports.
Whatever the 5G roadmap eventually contains, and whatever help it gets from the new National Telecom Policy, Indian operators still face an uphill battle in rolling out 5G by 2020. Last August, EY Global Telecommunications Leader Prashant Singhal pointed out that apart from the regulatory and spectrum issues to be dealt with – and assuming the spectrum is reasonably priced – operators are still struggling financially just to roll out 4G.
Even with consolidation underway in the market, 5G will be a capex-intensive undertaking for the survivors, which is a hard sell to shareholders when 5G business models are still uncertain and device availability in 2020 will be both sparse and unaffordable for most Indian mobile users.