India approves 5G trials but excludes Chinese vendors

The latest move also indicates that the government may bar Chinese companies from participating in rolling out of the 5G services in the country

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has given approval to several telecom service providers to begin conducting 5G trials in the country for six-month. While the firms span multiple nationalities, the list excludes Chinese vendors.

DoT said it had given permission to Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) to conduct trials for use of the 5G technology, as well as run applications powered by 5G.

Of the four telcos that have been given the go-ahead to conduct the trials, the private telcos, Bharti Airtel, Jio and Vi, have tied up with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, respectively. State-run MTNL on the other hand has partnered the Centre for Development of Telematics for original equipment and technology to be used in 5G trials

“The experimental spectrum is being given in various bands which include the mid-band (3.2 GHz to 3.67 GHz), millimetre wave band (24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz) and in Sub-Gigahertz band (700 GHz).

TSPs will also be permitted to use their existing spectrum owned by them (800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2500 MHz) for conduct of 5G trials,” said the DoT.

The permission letters given by the DoT to each telecom service provider specify that they will have to conduct trials in rural and semi-urban settings also in addition to urban settings so that the benefit of 5G technology proliferates across the country and is not confined only to urban areas.

During the trial phase, the four telcos will get frequencies for testing in the 3.2 GHz to 3.67 GHz or the millimetre wave band and 24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz band, among others. Apart from this, telcos will also be allowed to use their existing spectrum in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2500 MHz band frequencies for the trials.

“The TSPs are encouraged to conduct trials using 5Gi technology in addition to the already known 5G Technology. It will be recalled that International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has also approved the 5Gi technology, which was advocated by India, as it facilitates much larger reach of the 5G towers and Radio networks.

The 5Gi technology has been developed by IIT Madras, Centre of Excellence in Wireless Technology (CEWiT) and IIT Hyderabad,”

The objectives of the 5G trials include testing 5G spectrum propagation characteristics, evaluation of chosen equipment and vendors, testing of indigenous technology and testing of applications, such as tele-medicine, tele-education, augmented/ virtual reality, drone-based agricultural monitoring and to test 5G phones and devices.

Commenting on the development, a Nokia spokesperson said:

“Nokia India welcomes the government’s decision to conduct trials including rural and semi-urban areas, aligned with the long-term vision of a Digital India.”

“We are confident of our readiness to support our customers in implementing 5G strategy with the advantage of our technology leadership, our experience in serving customers globally, and our initiatives in India including 5G manufacturing in Chennai.”

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General S.P. Kochhar said the move it will stimulate local R&D ecosystem to develop innovative applications tailored to commercial needs.

“We welcome the government’s decision to start exhaustive 5G trials in different categories of locations across India. It will stimulate local R&D ecosystem to develop innovative applications tailored to commercial needs.

“It will enable TSPs to validate 5G technologies and use cases such as IoT and Industry 4.0. We hope the Govt. will also look into the industry’s call for revisiting the 5G spectrum pricing,” Kochhar added.

Chinese exclusion

The two major Chinese telecom equipment and technology vendors, Huawei and ZTE are conspicuous by their absence from the partner list of the three private telcos or the state-run telco MTNL. While there is no official bar on the deployment of equipment and technology from these two vendors, they have effectively been left out of the trials as no telcos requested permission to use their equipment.

“We can only give permissions based on what the telco asked. No telcos asked to use their [Huawei and ZTE] equipment,” a senior DoT official said.

Wang Xiaojian, the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India, said in a statement:

“the nation expresses concern and regret that Chinese telecommunications companies have not been permitted to conduct 5G trials with Indian Telecom Service Providers in India.”

“Relevant Chinese companies have been operating in India for years, providing mass job opportunities and making contribution to India’s infrastructure construction in telecommunications.

To exclude Chinese telecommunications companies from the trials will not only harm their legitimate rights and interests, but also hinder the improvement of the Indian business environment, which is not conducive to the innovation and development of related Indian industries,”

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