India wants to keep its date with the global 5G roll out in 2020. With Lok Sabha elections entering its last phase, the 100-day action plan prepared by the Department of Telecom (DoT) has put 5G technology trials and its experimentation with spectrum on top of the agenda of the new government.
The new government at the Centre will have the task of issuing 5G network trial licenses to the telcos along with the spectrum.
The allocation will take place as soon as the new government takes charge, which could be in June, and depending on their readiness, the telcos could start the initial 5G run in the same month. The network trial licenses will be issued before that, said an official source.
"In the 'Enabling 5G in India' programme, the 100-day action plan of the DoT includes 5G technology trials, policy on experimentation and trial spectrum for technologies, policy on participation in standardisation and international standards bodies, regulatory policy and application and use case labs," the source said.
The plan also pushes for early giving away of licenses for 5G spectrum trials along with use case experimentations.
"Simplifying the process of obtaining experimental licenses and establishing regulatory sandboxes like simplifying and fast-tracking approvals for products and services for experimental purposes through delicensing and other mechanisms and promoting establishment of test beds, incubations and innovation centres in collaboration with the industry and the academia are on the agenda," said the 100-day action plan document.
As the DoT is getting ready for the government with continued action plan and fast-track implementation scheme, the much-awaited network trial for 5G services in the country is slated to start from June itself.
A Telecom Ministry panel has recommended spectrum for the test run to the incumbent telcos for a three-month period, which would be scalable to six to 12 months on special cases for further experimentation.
The panel, which deliberated on the quantum and duration of the spectrum trial, has recommended 5G spectrum to the incumbents Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio initially for three months, which can be scaled up to one year in case they need more time for network stabilisation.
The three equipment vendors who have got the green signal from the panel are Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson, sources said.
As of now, Jio is likely to partner with Samsung, Nokia with Airtel, and Vodafone Idea with Ericsson for the trial. The DoT has so far not taken any call on whether Chinese firm Huawei will be a part of the trial for any telecom services company.
5G technology is being used for functions such as remotely-performed robotic surgeries, remote operations of mine equipment or cars driven by someone sitting hundreds of miles away.
Regulators, networking device makers, telecom companies and industry partners state that apart from meeting the massive consumer demand for data, 5G will throw open new and game-changing uses across sectors and industries.
5G will not only provide the fastest internet access, but will mean that fewer transmitters are needed to cover larger areas. While we will hopefully see 5G deployments in India by 2020, it will take another 3-4 years for the mass proliferation of the technology, said one operator.