ITC asks TRAI to reserve private 5G spectrum for enterprises, not telcos

private 5G ITC COAI
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Indian conglomerate ITC has urged the country’s telecom regulator to not only reserve 5G spectrum for enterprises so they can deploy private networks, but also block telcos from subleasing private 5G spectrum.

In a submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), ITC said the deployment of a private 5G network would allow the company to “harness the full benefits of Industry 4.0” and fulfil the affordability, reliability, continuity, flexibility, and security requirements of its business.

ITC said that spectrum for private 5G networks should be allocated directly by the “spectrum managing agency” in various geographies on an administrative basis at nominal fee.

“Spectrum managing agencies … should be equipped with sufficient spectrum resources to satisfy enterprise requirements. The allocation of spectrum should follow careful assessment of how much spectrum enterprises actually need and should remain flexible to a degree that it can react to future increases in demand for spectrum,” the conglomerate said.

ITC recommended that at least 100 MHz in the sub-6 GHz band and 400 MHz of mmWave spectrum band be reserved for private 5G in line with global practises to enable Industry 4.0.

“Big chunks of the spectrum are lying unsold in different band categories. India may adopt policies just like the UK where unused spectrum is allowed to be used by private networks,” ITC said.

Private 5G networks have long been touted as a new revenue opportunity for telcos keen to offer enterprises managed 5G connectivity solutions. However, ITC argued in its submission that telcos should not be allowed to sublease 5G spectrum to companies because it would bring too much complexity to the admin process and give telcos too much control over whp gets spectrum and who doesn’t.

“It may be difficult for industries to get spectrum from telcos due to unavailability of the network in their geographical area…there could be a dilemma for the telcos to balance between the public network roll-out at the location and the private network demands. Additionally, the price charged by the telcos may work as a deterrent, as the latter can form a monopoly in specific regions based on their licenses,” ITC said.

If TRAI decides to allow telcos to sublease 5G spectrum to enterprises, the company added, telcos should be required to report any such agreement to the government once it is in place.

ITC also said that the Indian government should issue enterprises temporary (and ideally free) licenses to set up a 5G test lab on their premises using designated private network spectrum. “These control environments can be a test lab, customer experience centre or co-innovation centre, rural infrastructure for farmers which can identify and validate different use cases and help customers gain better confidence in this new technology.”

Separately, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), which represents Indian IT services companies, also urged TRAI to earmark 5G spectrum for private networks.

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