The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has given the go-ahead for 5G trials in the country, though with some delay. As expected, Huawei and ZTE will not be participating in the forthcoming trials since telecom operators had submitted multiple applications and the Chinese firms were not marked on the priority list.
Both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea will conduct the trials with Ericsson and Nokia, whereas Reliance Jio will be doing so together with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. State-run MTNL will conduct the trials with C-DoT while BSNL does not intend to participate in this round. In addition, Reliance Jio will also be conducting trials using its own indigenous technology.
Once the trials are completed, which is expected to be done over a period of six months, the government will move ahead with 5G auctions.
Currently, only the mid-band spectrum in 3300 MHz-3600 MHz has been earmarked for 5G. But the auctions will include those for additional spectrum in millimetre wave band and sub 1 GHz band. A portion of this spectrum has been lying with space and defence departments and telecom operators have been demanding that more bands be opened for 5G technology. A telco will require around 100 MHz in the mid-band spectrum to offer pan-India 5G services but not enough airwaves are currently available to satisfy the needs of all operators.
Telecom secretary Anshu Prakash told FE the significance of the trials is that it reduces the time gap between 5G spectrum auctions and the rollout of 5G network. “In the past, trials happened after the auction but we are gaining time by starting now,” he said. Prakash added that the trials will also enable operators to choose the vendors and type of equipment. Moreover, the applications developed for India will be tested and adopted during the trials, while 5G devices will also be used. As per a recent report by Nokia, there are around two million active 5G devices in the country.
In January this year, Bharti Airtel had demonstrated 5G services over a commercial network in Hyderabad using the 1800 MHz spectrum band. Reliance Jio, too, had announced it would roll out 5G services in the second half of this year.
The government said the duration of the 5G trials will be of six months, which includes two months to procure and set up the equipment. “The permissions have been given by DoT as per the priorities and technology partners identified by telecom service providers themselves,” an official statement said.
Spectrum for the trial is being given in various bands which includes the mid-band (3.2 GHz to 3.67 GHz), millimeter wave band (24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz) and the sub-1 GHz (700 GHz). Telcos will also be permitted to use spectrum owned by them (800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2500 MHz) to conduct the trials.
The telcos will be required to conduct trials in rural and semi-urban areas in addition to urban settings. Also, operators will be encouraged to use locally developed 5G technology in addition to the globally prevalent 5G standards. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has also approved the 5G technology, advocated by India, as it facilitates a much larger reach of the 5G towers and radio networks. The technology has been developed by IIT Madras, Centre of Excellence in Wireless Technology (CEWiT) and IIT Hyderabad.
DoT has specified the trials, to be conducted on non-commercial basis, will be isolated and not connected with the existing telecom networks. The data generated during the trials are to be stored in India.