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DOT Expected To Approve 5G Trial Applications In Two Weeks

Thursday, 18 February 2021, 04:44 Hrs

Applications for 5G trials submitted by Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) are likely to be cleared in the coming two weeks with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) swinging into action following adverse comments in a recent report by the parliamentary committee on IT.

"The DoT secretary's office is directly involved in the discussion along with other officials. They are driving discussions with telcos on approvals for 5G trials," a person familiar with the matter told ET. DoT officials had earlier this week held meetings with the telcos to discuss the 5G trials roadmap.

The IT panel, through its report, pulled up the DoT for delays in holding 5G trials despite submissions from all telcos and industry bodies. Queries sent to Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea did not elicit any response.

The panel, in its report, had asked why spectrum for 5G trials has still not been allocated when the DoT has categorically stated that there are no major issues confronting trials in the country.

"This is in complete contradiction to what the department had informed the committee during examination of Demands for Grants (2020-21) in the month of February 2020 that the government has allowed all applications for 5G trials in limited area and for limited time to test potential 5G India-specific use cases," the panel said in its report.

The DoT, which last year received 16 applications for 5G field trials using imported as well as indigenous technology, told the panel that the trials may start in two-three months.

The DoT had initially planned to hold the trials in early 2019, but that has kept on getting delayed, initially over rules and then spectrum allotments, and due to lack of clarity on the fate of China’s Huawei, among other reasons.

All four telcos—Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL—had originally submitted their respective 5G trial applications in January 2020. These applications were followed by ‘priority vendor’ applications by all telcos in September that year, when all four telcos named European and US equipment makers as preferred partners for 5G trials, effectively shutting Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE out.

Jio had named Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson besides applying to trial its own technology. Airtel and Vodafone Idea had opted for Finland's Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson while BSNL plans to partner state-run Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT). Vodafone Idea, in its application, said that it intends to also conduct trials with US-based Mavenir.

Both Jio and Airtel have already claimed their end-to-end readiness to launch commercial 5G services in the country shortly after the availability of ‘adequate’ spectrum.

Airtel recently demonstrated live 5G services on its commercial 4G network in Hyderabad using 1800 MHz band. The Sunil Mittal-led telco said that it can commercially launch 5G services without the mid-band with the help of existing 4G spectrum bands but it will wait for the government to release 5G spectrum, especially in the mid-band. Mukesh Ambani' recently said that Reliance Jio will launch 5G using its own technology in the second half of 2021.