India’s leading telecom operator, Reliance Jio, has joined its bitter rival Airtel in raising concerns about the local 5G standard, which it said must be harmonised with the 3GPP’s 5G standard to achieve scale and cost benefits.
At last week’s stakeholder consultation meeting with India’s Department of Telecommunications, Jio and Airtel told the officials that the 5Gi Indian standard should not be made mandatory and optional since it is not harmonised with global standards.
Telecom operators along with telecom gear vendors have also sought clarity from the DoT over the standard’s implications for the smartphone ecosystem. They claimed that 5Gi doesn’t have a device ecosystem, and making it mandatory will increase the prices of smartphones.
Airtel reportedly told the DoT secretary, Anshu Prakash, that 5Gi is not globally harmonised and will lead to costly devices and delays in the 5G rollout.
The Jio executive also requested officials to avoid mandating any requirements for consumer devices for spectrum and features and said that these things are market-driven. He reportedly asked the government to make efforts for global harmonisation of 5Gi standards by making it a part of 3GPP.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents all three private telcos and gear vendors, said that there would be implications if there is a separate handset production line for India, which will result in a price increase. The body noted that bringing prices down of handsets should be the main focus of the industry.
“We have sought clarification. It is claimed that there will be minor tweaks in handsets,” COAI director general S P Kochhar was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.
Telecom Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI), responsible for Telecommunications standards development, has been pushing its version of 5G radio interface technology, namely 5Gi. TSDSI’s 5G technology recently cleared the rigorous processes of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and has been approved by the SG5 of ITU as a part of Draft Recommendation IMT-2020.SPECS.
Indian private telcos, however, have raised concerns over performance gain compared to the globally accepted 3GPP standard and other issues. Bharti Airtel’s CEO, Gopal Vittal, recently said that the local 5G standard could pose an “existential threat” to the telecom ecosystem in the country, and it could lock India out of the global ecosystem.
“We are most happy if the local 5G standard is globally harmonised. Globalisation will help in lowering the cost of devices and achieving scale. It will also make India an export hub for 5G handsets. Harmonisation with 3GPP is crucial even as there is substantial progress for 5Gi with the ITU,” Kochhar, who attended the meeting with the DoT, told the publication.
During the meeting, both telecom operators have again asked the department to reduce the reserve price for 5G spectrum and urged it to make spectrum in other bands available in the next auction, which is likely next year.
The Mukesh Ambani-led telco urged the DoT to seek the reserve price from TRAI for all 5G spectrum bands for auction “with a clear request that the reserve price be kept reasonable in order to meet the 5G proliferation goals.”. India’s top telco also termed the current pricing of mid-band spectrum unrealistic.
Jio said that 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum is required to meet the demands in India during the 2025-2030 timeframe. Airtel also demanded the availability of mmWave bands and 600 MHz band during the next round of auctions and told the government to earmark these bands for high-speed 5G services.