IT and infrastructure firms apply for private 5G networks

More than 20 businesses, including Infosys, Capgemini, GMR, Larsen & Toubro, Tata Communications, Tata Power, and Tejas Networks, have asked for direct allotment of 5G spectrum to establish private communication networks, according to officials with knowledge of the situation.

These requests were made in response to a test the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) conducted to determine how much spectrum would be needed to build private networks.

A direct allocation of airwaves by the department to such captive networks was one of the choices under a spectrum allotment policy that was announced in June, but only after performing a demand survey. The DoT had made it clear that the goal of the current exercise was to assess demand, and that submission of an application at this time would not imply spectrum would be allotted to the applicant.

Additionally, DoT has not outlined a timeline for the direct spectrum allotment. Industry insiders believe it could take the government one to two years to release specific allocation regulations.

The telecom department’s initial recommendations on private networks state that companies that wish to create their own captive networks can either purchase spectrum directly from DoT or lease it from telecom carriers.

Companies with a net worth of more than Rs 100 crore who wanted to establish captive non-public networks or private networks, were permitted to apply for spectrum as part of the demand research.

In addition, the department has written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) with suggestions regarding pricing at which spectrum.

Instead of using a telecom service provider, as is customary today, corporate houses can set up their own WiFi and data network under private networks. One of the most exciting enterprise 5G use cases is the idea of private networks.

Direct spectrum allotment to businesses for the purpose of establishing captive private networks has been a contentious topic that has pitted technology companies against telecom carriers.

Telcos have been protesting the proposal to directly allocate spectrum to businesses since the Cabinet approved it in June, claiming it will disrupt the fair playing field and provide technology players a backdoor entry to offer 5G services to businesses.

While this has been going on, the tech industry has been heavily advocating for such direct allocation for creating captive networks, claiming that being forced to take spectrum from telecoms would limit their flexibility and efficiency.

Additionally, they have voiced their opposition to the DoT’s demand research, arguing that without any deadlines for completion, telecom providers will benefit from being first to market.

In order to temporarily allocate spectrum to businesses until such demand studies are finished and Trai makes its recommendations, the association has been in contact with DoT.