DoT likely to agree around year-long 5G trial period

Huawei, Airtel conduct successful 5G trial in India

The stalemate over duration of 5G trials between telecom operators and the Department of Telecom is moving towards a resolution with the DoT possibly agreeing to a one year period of network testing, sources said, adding the trials would happen any time in the second half of the current calendar year.

“We are looking at a resolved scenario. As of now, the 90-day period has not been relaxed. But it is likely to be relaxed… It could be any time in the second half of the year,” a source said.

The 90-day period refers to the current DoT norm of network testing, but the telecom firms, have through industry body COAI, have been demanding a full year of 5G trials, reasoning that allocation of the trial spectrum merely for 90 days is for too short a time and will not serve the desired purpose.

Last week, there was a meeting of the DoT panel set up to look into the 5G trial issues and the discussions revolved around solutions and reaching a decision fast. The panel will meet again in coming days and a decision is expected soon. Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio are gearing up for 5G trials along with their network partners which could be Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia, depending on who they finally choose at the time of trial.

Another source said if it is not 12 months, there will be very little difference between what period will be offered to the telcos. “…. maybe 10 months, but it will be over three months,” the source said.

The DoT wireless planning wing’s current rules say that free spectrum for 5G trials can be allocated only for 90 days. 5G trials are needed to test operations, use of different applications and for familiarity with full-scale deployment later in 2020.

The government had earlier announced its decision to enable the operators roll out the 5G services along with their global launch in 2020.

Asked if the resolution means that the period could be the exact 12 months as sought by the telcos, a source said: “Nothing as of now to suggest that it would not be 12 months… discussions are going on and will be out soon. This is going to be resolved but the way to resolve it is being discussed… but a very reasonable duration for the trial would come out.”

Asked if the spectrum is given free for the one-year period, then there could be loss to the government on the revenue front, sources said there could be different angles to it.