India’s Adani may miss its private 5G rollout deadline

India's Adani may miss its private 5G rollout deadline
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Adani Group has reportedly informed the Indian government that it may miss its first-year rollout obligations after acquiring 5G spectrum due to the absence of suitable use cases.

The conglomerate took everyone by surprise after it acquired 400 MHz of spectrum in the 26GHz millimeter-wave (mmWave) band for Rs 212 crore in India’s first 5G airwaves auction.

The group’s telecom unit, Adani Data Networks, is likely to approach the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to seek additional time to meet roll-out obligations before the deadline in August 2023, as per a report by the Financial Times newspaper. The company will be penalised if it misses the deadline.

Adani says it doesn’t have enough 5G spectrum

The Gujarat-based energy-to-consumer goods conglomerate has already flagged concerns during a recent status check meeting convened by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). It reportedly told the regulator that it has too little spectrum and is therefore unable to find suitable use cases to roll out any kind of service.

Adani Group, which acquired 100 MHz each in Gujarat and Mumbai circles, and 50 MHz each in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, has told TRAI that it will seek additional time from the DoT.

Previously, Adani Data Networks also sought a universal access services licence (UASL) for those circles to launch 5G services for enterprises this year. Adani Group chairperson Gautam Adani told employees in January that the company would invest in expanding its network of data centres and building AI-ML and industrial cloud capabilities, as well as rolling out 5G services and launching B2C apps.

Adani Group then said that acquiring spectrum was the group’s first step in integrating its digital infrastructure portfolio, which includes data centres, terrestrial fibre and submarine cables, industrial cloud, AI innovation labs, cybersecurity and super apps. The group clarified that it has no intention to offer retail telecom services using its 5G spectrum.

No one is using mmWave this year

Adani Group is currently in talks with Finnish telecom equipment supplier Nokia to set up 5G private networks using the mmWave band for a host of the group’s businesses, particularly for mining, sea ports and airport management.

During last year’s 5G auctions, India’s top two telcos, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, also acquired mmWave spectrum. However, neither telco has announced any 5G service using the band, especially for FWA use cases.

Jio and Airtel are currently rolling out consumers 5G using the 3.6-GHz band. Vodafone Idea, the third-ranked telco by subscriber base, has yet to share a 5G rollout timeline.

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