Broadband India Forum on Monday asserted the policy guidelines for captive private 5G networks must be implemented in letter and spirit of Cabinet decision, and that any delay in implementing direct spectrum allocation will impact enterprises "unfairly", giving regulatory advantage to certain industry sections.
The enterprises should, in all fairness, be allowed their fundamental right to choose with whom they partner to set up their private captive networks, Broadband India Forum (BIF) said in a statement, adding, "this choice should be available to them right from the beginning itself".
Tech companies and telecom operators have clashed on the issue of captive private 5G networks, a lucrative business in fifth-generation services. Telcos have in the past argued that globally wherever 5G has been rolled out, there is hardly any consequent revenue increment seen from the retail segment, and the revenue and efficiency enhancement happens largely from the enterprise segment.
The Cabinet recently approved the auction of airwaves capable of offering fifth-generation or 5G telecom services, including ultra-high-speed internet, and gave its nod for setting up captive 5G networks by tech firms.
While the 5G spectrum in nine frequency bands will be auctioned to telecom operators like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, according to bid document, enterprises and tech firms -- for the time being -- will be allowed to take the 5G spectrum for their captive non-public network on lease from the telecom companies. A direct allocation to enterprises will follow a demand study and sector regulator Trai's recommendation on aspects, such as pricing and modalities of such allocation.
BIF in a statement on Monday cited reports to say it has come to understand that the government is initially considering to include only the framework for enterprises to set up private 5G networks in partnership with telecom operators, by taking spectrum on lease or by getting their networks.
"BIF feels that such an action, if taken, will provide a regulatory advantage to one side, more so since that side is already overly strong and has the advantages of huge external market power of an incumbent network, which directly impacts the businesses of the weak non-telecom vertical players, that is, enterprises," it said.
Taking note of certain media reports that policy guidelines that would allow setting up of captive private 5G networks is in the offing, BIF said it welcomes this progressive move by the government in the process of digital transformation for the nation and towards achieving 'Industry 4.0'.
To truly implement the Cabinet decision in letter and spirit, it might be appropriate to provide a suitably calibrated handicap to the enterprises to offset the disadvantage they face due to the "privileged" position that the other side holds, the industry body suggested.
The enterprises should be provided their fundamental right to choose with whom they partner to set up their private captive networks, and this choice should be available to them right from the start, argued BIF, whose members include tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Meta, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), among others.
BIF President T V Ramachandran said: "If the mentioned media reports are taken to be true, these guidelines would surely distort competition and go against the essence of the Cabinet decision as well as the NIA (Notice Inviting Applications) dated June 15 2022, wherein there was no indication that the options for incumbents to offer these services first were to be facilitated."