NEW DELHI: India’s 5G rollout speed may be one of the fastest in the world in just a year of launch. But where the country is falling behind is in the adoption of private captive networks by its enterprises. India lags behind the US, Japan, Germany, UK and China, among other geographies, on this parameter, according to industry executives and Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). GSA, which counts companies such as Intel, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Nokia, Ericsson as its members, pegs India at the 16th position in terms of private 5G network adoption by enterprises. Industry executives engaged with enterprises cite the lack of prominent use cases, absence of an integrated ecosystem for bundled services, aversion to taking spectrum on lease or via network slicing from telcos, and a higher dependency on telcos as some of the reasons for the slow take-up of private 5G solutions.
According to GSA, a dedicated spectrum for private networks could boost the adoption of private 5G in the country. “There is typically a strong, positive correlation between the number of private mobile network references and countries with dedicated spectrum,” GSA said in a report. The US currently has the most customers at 163, followed by Germany at 89, China at 51, the UK at 45, and Japan at 35, according to the report that surveyed 676 organisations worldwide deploying private wireless networks. In India, the number of private networks deployed is less than 20, according to the report.
“The only reason why India is not in the top list of private 5G adoption is because the industry’s requirement is a dedicated and independent spectrum,” Viswanathan Ramaswamy, vice president, 5G and digital solutions incubation at Tata Communications, said at an industry event last week. According to Ramaswamy, enterprises have flagged multiple issues for not taking up private 5G using a network slice or shared spectrum with telcos. Experts said in the absence of 5G monetisation from retail consumers at present, enterprise 5G pick-up is critical for companies, including telcos, to drive meaningful return on investments. According to Sandeep Nag, director–5G at Capgemini, “less take-up of private captive networks is because there are no prominent use cases at present that justify why these companies should transition from Wi-Fi or 4G LTE to a 5G inside their campuses or factories”.
While Capgemini is seeing some adoption in 5G private captive network technology for security and surveillance, especially at ports, Nag said without dedicated spectrum, it will be difficult to grow the captive network adoption on 5G in the country as no large enterprise want to depend on telcos for their end-to-end needs.This has again brought to fore the debate around the direct allocation of 5G spectrum to enterprises. This was one of the four options recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on the subject of captive private networks.
In May, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had decided to go ahead with three of the four options on captive private networks — allowing enterprises to use a network slice from telcos’ network, taking the services of private networks completely from telcos, and giving them the option of taking spectrum on lease from telcos. DoT last year, also rejected Trai’s recommendation for reserving some 5G spectrum for private captive networks.“We have not ignored the option of direct spectrum allotment to enterprises for private captive networks. The consultations are going on and if this will boost the take-up of private 5G projects in the country, we may resolve the issues soon,” a DoT official said, on the condition of anonymity.Savi Soin, senior vice president and president of Qualcomm India, recently told FE that the company is “in discussion with telcos to drive adoption of private 5G”.
Soin said the telcos, system integrators, and equipment suppliers, need to come together and provide only one subscription-as-a-service model to enterprises for private 5G requirements. Enterprises do not want to engage with different solution providers for these large projects, Soin added. Telcos and technology companies have been sparring over the allocation of spectrum. While telcos have alleged that direct spectrum would distort the level playing field and give technology players a backdoor entry to provide 5G services to enterprises, technology companies said telcos do not have the right expertise in providing such solutions and therefore a dedicated spectrum is required.
Satya N Gupta, former principal advisor at Trai, said, enterprises need to do a cost analysis of both the options — building everything themselves and buying it from telcos — for their private 5G requirements. As part of the exercise to analyse demand for spectrum for private captive networks from enterprises, DoT had received20 applications from companies such as Infosys, Capgemini, GMR, Larsen & Toubro, Tata Communications, Tata Power, and Tejas Networks. These companies have sought direct allocation of spectrum largely in spectrum band of 3,300-3,670 MHz, for private networks.
Source: The Financial Express