The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has urged the government to not reserve any spectrum that has been identified for the use of commercial services for private or captive networks.

The industry lobby, which represents telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, says this will not only result in a significant loss to the exchequer but also lead to inefficient use of this "scarce resource".

This comes after private firms like Tata Consultancy Services sought direct allocation of 5G spectrum, following suggestions by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that recommended a certain amount of exclusive spectrum to be earmarked for private 5G networks.

As per TRAI recommendations, non-telecom enterprises would be allocated 5G spectrum for building their private networks for data needs. However, TRAI has added that such enterprises can take spectrum on lease from telecom operators also.

Fortune India earlier reported that 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. That will take a hit if large enterprises set up private networks. Private networks could also open up a new can of worms over what all can be considered to be included under adjusted gross revenues (AGR) in the future.

Addressing the concerns regarding 5G private captive networks, COAI says that allocating spectrum to industry verticals for operating private captive networks isn't justified as licenced access service providers are fully capable of providing all customised solutions.

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

Public networks can't deliver the levels of efficiencies and the required service level agreement that are expected from private networks, the tech lobby says.

It asked the Centre to allow direct allocation of spectrum to enterprises at nominal administrative fee, as per global best practices. "Facilitate a light-touch online portal based paperless regime for acquiring permission/license for 'Captive Wireless Private Network (CWPN)' within 30 days of application, (as recommended by Trai) to enable ease of doing business," says the Broadband India Forum.

This comes weeks after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) suggested a 36-40% cut in the floor price for auction of spectrum for providing 5G services in India. TRAI recommended a 40% cut in the price of spectrum in the 700MHz band and 36% in the 3300-3700MHz band.

TRAI has cut the base price after nearly 60% of the spectrum remained unsold during the 2016 and 2021 auctions.

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