Adani in spectrum race, but ‘not in consumer mobility space’

The development comes after the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), in a set of rules issued last month, had said that companies wishing to set up private 5G networks could obtain spectrum from the government directly, without paying a license fee.

“As India prepares to roll out next generation 5G services through this auction, we are one of the many applicants participating in the open bidding process,” Adani Group said in a statement. “We are participating in the 5G spectrum auction to provide private network solutions along with enhanced cyber security in the airport, ports & logistics, power generation, transmission, distribution, and various manufacturing operations… Our intention is not to be in the consumer mobility space . ”

The conglomerate said that as it builds its own digital platform including super apps, data centers, and industry command & control centers, it will need ultra high quality data streaming capabilities through a high frequency and low latency 5G network across all its businesses. “… If we are awarded 5G spectrum in the open bidding, it will also align with our recent announcement of significantly increasing the Adani Foundation’s investments in Education, Healthcare and Skill Development in rural areas,” it added.

Last month, alongside announcing the spectrum auction for rollout of 5G services across the country, the government had announced the proposal for tech companies to acquire spectrum directly from it to test and build industry 4.0 applications, such as machine-to-machine communications, IoT , AI, etc. These networks are called private captive networks as they are set up to serve a specific organization.

As per DoT rules notified last month, enterprises wishing to set up such networks by obtaining spectrum directly from the government will be required to take a 10-year renewable license, for which the government won’t charge any license fee. The licensee will be required to follow stipulated network security norms regarding procurement of telecom equipment from trusted sources. However, the DoT has said that it will undertake demand studies and seek Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) recommendations for direct assignment of spectrum to such enterprises.

Enterprises can also lease spectrum from one or more telecom companies and will be allowed to do so after submitting details of the spectrum band, the quantum of spectrum, the period of lease, the geographic area, the geo-coordinates of the logical perimeter of the defined premises to the government. Further, revenue earned from leasing spectrum will be part of telecom companies’ gross revenue. The telecom department has restricted use of such networks only to private use, disallowing private networks from connecting to public networks “in any manner”. Additionally, both telecom companies and tech companies leasing spectrum will have to ensure that there is no interference caused to any public network or any other licensed user of spectrum.

Telecom operators have previously opposed the government’s decision allowing non-telecom enterprises to set up their private networks, citing a loss of revenue. Industry executives have also flagged that allowing enterprises to set up such networks, without paying any license fee as stipulated in the DoT’s norms, will give them an unfair advantage over telecom companies, who are expecting business-side use case to drive a majority of the revenue they earn from 5G airwaves, compared to the consumer sector.

Meanwhile, the government is expecting to mop up between Rs 80,000 crore to Rs 1 lakh crore from the upcoming 5G auction, a senior government official had earlier said. All the spectrum up for auction, worth around Rs 4.5 lakh crore, may not be sold, including in the premium 700 MHz spectrum band.


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