The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has released the names of four applicants who have applied for the upcoming 5G spectrum. The telecom department informed in a statement on Tuesday it has received applications from Adani Data Networks, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for auction that will see 72,097.85 MHz of spectrum going under the hammer.

The DoT clarifies in its statement that list is for information only and does not in any way imply that applications from these four applicants have been processed or pre-qualified.

On June 15, the Cabinet had approved auction of spectrum in low frequency bands of 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, mid frequency band of 3300 MHz, and high frequency band of 26 GHz. In the auction, scheduled for July-end, the spectrum will be allocated with a validity of 20 years.

Among the applicants, the only enterprise to apply for 5G spectrum is Adani Data Networks (ADNL); the rest three are incumbent telcos. ADNL is a wholly owned subsidiary of ports-to-power conglomerate Adani Group, incorporated on December 22, 2021 to provide optical fibre network services.

Since ADNL is a new entrant to the sector, the company has been provided a letter of intent, dated June 28, 2022, by the DoT for grant of unified licence with authorisation of ILD (national area), and ISP-B for Gujarat circle, it says in the ownership details shared with the telecom department.

Adani Group had announced last week that it had applied for 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”.

While Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the largest IT services provider in the country, had also expressed interest in acquiring spectrum for a private 5G network, it does not feature in the list of applicants shared by the DoT.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had mentioned in its recommendations that non-telecom enterprises would be allocated 5G spectrum for building their private networks for data needs. However, TRAI has added that enterprises can also lease spectrum from telecom operators.

However, telecom operators have opposed the concept of private networks, since enterprise data revenue is expected to be the biggest chunk of operator revenues under 5G. This revenue influx will take a hit if large enterprises set up their own private networks. Private networks could also complicate matters pertaining to inclusions under adjusted gross revenues (AGR) in the future.

Telecom industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has exclaimed that allocating spectrum to industry verticals for operating private captive networks isn't justified as licensed access service providers are fully capable of providing all customised solutions.

However, Broadband India Forum (BIF), which counts TCS, Cisco, Google, Ericsson and Amazon among its members, had assured last month that allocating 5G spectrum to enterprises for private 5G networks does not pose any security threat and will generate extra revenue for the government.

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