Indian operators miss latest deadline for 5G trial plans

Indian operators miss latest deadline for 5G trial plans

10 January 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Indian three surviving mobile operators, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, have missed their deadline for government-backed 5G trials.

They were due to submit proposals by today to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), but now want more time to put their plans together.

This is only the latest in a number of delays to India’s 5G plans, which were first due to take place in early 2019. Ravi Shankar Prasad (pictured), who became telecoms minister in June 2019, said he wanted the trials to start within 100 days – a deadline that expired in September 2019. Prasad’s full portfolio includes law and justice as well as communications, electronics and information technology.

Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), confirmed to the Times of India that mobile companies had not even decided how much longer they want.

He told the newspaper: “There are three scenarios – rural, semi-urban and urban areas – for which information and a proper plan needs to be submitted including information from each gear vendor and telecom operator. This information gathering will take time, which is why we are seeking an extension.”

The delay does not appear to be directly connected with this week’s news that the DoT was approaching the Indian finance ministry on behalf of the three operators to ask for tax relief. The three told the DoT that they want levies and spectrum costs to be reduced, and a reduction of taxes on licence fees, spectrum usage charges and on payment of spectrum charges, and refund of accumulated input tax credit.

The DoT has already identified four equipment vendors to take part in the 5G trial – Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia and Samsung – using trial spectrum.