Millennium Post

Centre will give 5G spectrum for trials to all operators: Prasad

‘An in-principle decision has been taken in this regard, and the telecom department will work out the details’

New Delhi: India will not bar any equipment suppliers, such as China's Huawei, in the upcoming trials for 5G, with Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday saying the government will allocate airwaves to all telecom service providers for conducting trials of super-fast speed 5G networks.

Huawei rivals western equipment makers, such as Ericsson, and is banned in the US. Many countries, however, have allowed telecom service providers to use Chinese gears. And now, India has also indicated its unwillingness to keep any company out of 5G trials.

The government has decided to give 5G spectrum for trials to all operators in the country, Prasad said on Monday on the sidelines of a telecom event.

This implies that all operators, backed by equipment vendors they have decided to partner with, will be able to participate in the upcoming 5G trials in the country, and the stance is expected to spell a relief for Chinese gear maker Huawei.

"The age of 5G is coming... We have taken a decision to give 5G spectrum for trials to all the players," Prasad said.

An in-principle decision has been taken in this regard, Prasad said adding that the telecom department will work out the details.

"I would like new innovations by Indian players in 5G. 5G is future, it is speed. Therefore, we will encourage new innovations in 5G," the minister said.

Asked specifically about the status of Huawei as the government has decided to allow all telecom operators and equipment makers for 5G trials, the minister said, "All players mean all players".

When contacted, Huawei India CEO Jay Chen said in a e-mail statement that the company firmly believes that only technology innovations and high-quality networks will be the key to rejuvenating the Indian telecom industry.

Thanking the Indian government for their continued faith in the company, Chen said, "We have our full confidence in the Modi government to drive 5G in India. We have our full confidence in Indian government and industry to partner with best technology for India's own long-term benefit and also for cross-industry development."

Huawei is committed to India, the company said.

The 5G trials are widely-expected to begin in the last quarter of the current financial year. Sources had recently said the government has received seven applications for 5G trials and added that all operators and vendors (including Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE and Samsung) are keen to participate.

In September this year, Huawei had said it is hopeful that the Indian government will treat all foreign investments "fairly" and had urged the world's largest democracy to make an "independent decision" on permitting 5G trials in the country.

At that time, the Chinese firm had also sought to assure the Indian government that the company is fully compliant with regulations in India, and of addressing concerns around cybersecurity.

Earlier this year, the US had banned Huawei, the world's leader in telecom equipment and the number two smartphone producer, over concerns of security and Washington had been pressuring other countries to restrict the operations of the Chinese telecom firm.

The US President Donald Trump-led administration had placed Huawei and its affiliates on a blacklist, a move that banned the Chinese telecom equipment company from purchasing parts and components from American firms without the US government approval. However, it had subsequently relaxed some of the restrictions, to reduce disruption for its customers.

Earlier, it was reported that the Department of Telecom will soon seek sector regulator Trai's recommendations on pricing and other modalities for coveted 5G bands of 24.75-27.25 GHz, and wants to put this new spectrum up for auction sometime next year.

This new 5G chunk is separate from the Rs 5.22 lakh crore spectrum sale plan approved by the Digital Communications Commission on December 20, under which 8,300 MHz of airwaves across 22 circles are set to be put on the block in March-April 2020.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) sources had said that the government will soon approach the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for its recommendations on 'millimetre wave bands' of 24.75-27.25 GHz, the coveted bands for 5G.

DoT plans to approach the regulator in January for views on these additional 5G bands, sources had stated.

Although DoT ideally wants these bands to be put for sale earlier in the year, there are specific timelines involved in Trai reference and responses, they had pointed out.

That said, DoT wants to put this additional spectrum belonging to new 5G bands for auction sometime during 2020, they had noted.

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