Net neutrality rules will ruin 5G slicing: Indian telcos

net neutrality 5G slicing
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Telecom operators Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel want India to change existing net neutrality rules to best utilise 5G technology’s main feature, network slicing.

Both operators see the enterprise sector as a key 5G revenue opportunity, especially as network slicing allows them to offer dedicated bandwidth to private 5G customers. Indian telcos expect their enterprise business to contribute some 40% of 5G revenue.

Slicing also enables operators to offer dedicated capacity offerings to consumers for things like eSports.

However, network slicing technically goes against the grain of the spirit of net neutrality, which states that operators cannot give preferential or differential treatment to select customers based on cost or speed. Which is precisely the selling point of network slicing.

Flexible approach needed

“Net neutrality is very critical and essential. Having said that, there has to be certain flexibility that the capability 5G brings, such as network slicing, URLLC and the ability to do latency sensitive services can be suitably offered” Mathew Oommen, president at Reliance Jio was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

“India needs to figure a way out to be flexible in its approach to net neutrality,” he said, adding that the policy needs to evolve with technology change. “5G brings a lot of unique capabilities. So how net neutrality and 5G capabilities coexist together…that’s what we need to work towards with the policymakers to achieve so that no one loses on the inherent capabilities of 5G.”

Airtel shares similar views and backed the demand that India must revisit its net neutrality laws to pave the way for new use cases running on 5G, especially around Industry 4.0.

“Net neutrality should be seen with an open approach now,” a top Airtel executive told the publication. “The rules need to change and be opened up.”

Strong net neutrality rules

Indian telcos have yet to raise the issue with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) or the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). With wide-scale commercial availability of 5G expected in the coming weeks, Indian telcos are expected to officially raise the issue and seek regulatory intervention to exempt B2B services.

TRAI issued its recommendations for net neutrality rules in 2017. They were subsequently incorporated into the licence agreements of telecom operators. India has had among the strongest net neutrality rules in the world.

As per rules set by the DoT, the network should be neutral to all the information being transmitted through it. All communication passing through a network should be treated equally, independent of its content, application, service, device, sender or recipient address.  India’s net neutrality rules also prohibit differential pricing of data.

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