Industry body Broadband India Forum on Tuesday termed telcos' arguments on a level playing field between public and captive private 5G networks as "absurd and impractical", and asserted that the two are separate sets of services on a completely different footing and not competing with each other.
The age-old and time-tested concept of 'level playing field' cannot apply in the case of captive private 5G networks, as they have several distinctive traits, which distinguish them from public networks, with whom they are being compared "without any logic or basis", Broadband India Forum (BIF) said in a statement.
"Seeking a level playing field with enterprises for captive private networks is akin to a child in kindergarten being asked to compete with someone who has a doctoral degree," BIF President, TV Ramachandran pointed out.
The suggestion that private networks should not be given spectrum in bands, which are possible for telcos to use for offering services is "unjustified", as the telcos' businesses depend on economies of scale, while that of enterprise businesses having private networks does not, BIF said.
Regulations, Ramachandran said, are applied to mature players in the competition, who have significant market share and can abuse it.
"No mature regulator anywhere in the world imposes regulation on a player with no or minimal market share," Ramachandran said.
The telecom players on Monday flagged their concerns over the decision on private captive networks, during the pre-bid conference held by the Department of Telecom (DoT).
Industry association COAI - whose members include Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea - wrote to the DoT recently expressing disappointment at the government's decision on captive private networks.
Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has demanded a level playing field, arguing that solution providers too should pay the license fee and GST at the rates applicable for telcos on the billed amount of revenue and that such captive networks must remain "truly" private and isolated, and adhere to security norms.
It has been argued that since a decision to enable the captive networks through direct spectrum assignment has been taken, the government must now restrict the scope of such non-public networks to machine-to-machine communication inside the specific premise and plant automation only. Such networks must ensure they do not cause any interference to public networks.
Last week, the Cabinet approved the auction of airwaves capable of offering fifth-generation or 5G telecom services, including ultra-high-speed internet, and gave its nod for setting up captive 5G networks by tech firms.
While the 5G spectrum in nine frequency bands will be auctioned to telecom operators like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, enterprises and tech firms for the time being will be allowed to take the 5G spectrum for their captive non-public network on lease from the telecom companies.
A direct allocation to enterprises will follow a demand study and sector regulator Trai's recommendation on aspects, such as pricing and modalities of such allocation.
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