Given everything else that the sector has been dealing with, the timing of India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) announcement on 5G field trials is quite interesting.
The DoT is aiming to get 5G field trials up and running in only a month's time. This apparently follows a meeting this week with operators and their potential vendor partners to discuss use cases and their preparedness.
It seems, local press reports say, that operators and vendors gave a number of presentations on potential 5G use cases. Trial categories such as health, education, agriculture and surveillance were on the agenda, as were the role of enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access (FWA).
Pending Wireless Planning and Coordination approval, DoT will allocate trial spectrum to operators, which will then choose vendor partners. Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and ZTE are in the frame for Vodafone Idea and Airtel. Reliance Jio has submitted an application for trial with Samsung, its 4G partner. State-run telco BSNL has submitted its application with ZTE.
India’s 5G trials have been rescheduled more than once, but, with 5G spectrum auctions planned to take place sometime between April and June, the need to get trials underway is beginning to look urgent.
However, in the light of debt issues facing both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, it’s hard to see where the massive investment required for 5G spectrum and rollout will come from. Indeed, in the case of Vodafone Idea, survival in the Indian market may be a more immediate concern than next generation network investment.