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Broadband India Forum pushes for private 5G networks, refutes telecom operators’ revenue concerns

Dismissing objections raised by telecom operators to the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in favor of private 5G networks, the Broadband India Forum (BIF) said on Friday that with efficient private networks, businesses would increase their productivity, which, in turn, will open up improved revenue streams for telecom operators.

BIF, the industry body for tech players like Facebook, Google, etc., has urged the government to implement Trai’s recommendations, allowing companies to build their own private 5G networks for captive use, at the earliest. The BIF wrote to the government after the telecommunications industry raised concerns about private networks eating away at the revenues of mobile phone companies.

In a letter to Telecommunications Secretary K Rajaraman, the BIF said it is often misunderstood that private 5G networks will lead to lost revenue for telecom operators. In fact, in the current scenario, the majority of telecom companies’ business revenue would come from external network services which include voice and data communications. “Captive use in the current situation would only contribute a minor share in processes/applications like robotics, automation, etc., due to difficulties in delivering the required SLAs (service level agreements) via public networks. Therefore, the speculated loss of revenue for telecom operators via enterprise services is misplaced,” the BIF said in the letter.

Trai recommended that non-telecom companies be allocated 5G spectrum for building their private networks. Depending on the options given by the regulator, a private network can be deployed through a telecommunications network slice, or a business can ask a telecommunications company to establish an independent isolated private network in its premises using the spectrum of the telecom operator, or a company can lease spectrum from a telco and establish its own isolated captive network. The regulator also suggested that a company could obtain spectrum directly from the government and establish its own captive network.

But the telecommunications industry opposed the proposals. According to the industry association COAI, “business services account for 30-40% of overall industry revenue. Private networks once again discourage the telecommunications industry from investing in networks and continuing to pay high levies and taxes.

However, the BIF countered the industry by sharing examples of countries where private networks are already deployed. BIF said it should be recognized that many leading economies have already established and operated 5G networks operational for almost two years now.

In addition, telecom operators also have the option of leasing part of their spectrum to companies at an affordable cost. “This is in line with global best practice as the spectrum leasing option has been opened up in many leading economies such as Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Malaysia, UK, USA etc,” he said.

In private networks, companies can set up their own Wi-Fi data network instead of taking services from any telecommunications service provider. The concept of a private network is emerging as one of the most promising use cases for 5G.