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Wait for 5G in India gets longer as telcos granted more time for trials


In a major relief to the telecom operators, the Department of Telecommun­ications (DOT) has extended the validity of the 5G trial permit to Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel by six months, allowing them to conduct 5G experiment­s until May 2022. “DOT gave an extension for 5G trials for a period of six months. We received a letter from the DOT earlier this week,” said a report quoting a telecom official.

License for undertakin­g trials expires on November 26, but industry analysts argued that the 5G ecology needs extra time to test out different services. Six months ago, the DOT allotted 5G trial spectrum to operators in the 3.5 GHZ, 26 GHZ and 700 MHZ bands. Telcos are using this spectrum to create and test a range of India-specific use cases, either on their own or via strategic alliances and joint ventures.

At the moment, the DOT is also engaging with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to get base pricing suggestion­s. However, telcos would need to pay Rs 50,000 crore to purchase 100 MHZ of 5G spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHZ band, which is required on average to implement 5G technology, as per the current reserve price which is too expensive according to telcos for them to buy.

This extension of testing is expected to delay India’s commercial 5G deployment, as it would postpone the much-anticipate­d spectrum auction process which was expected to take place between January and March. The DOT has begun the process of commercial­ising 5G by requesting feedback from telecom regulator TRAI on spectrum auction pricing and procedure. While there is no clarity on the auction’s scheduling, industry insiders anticipate it will take place between April and June 2022.

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