Budget 2019: What’s in store for 5G under Digital India?

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New Delhi | Updated: July 14, 2019 6:22:15 PM

Union Budget 2019 India: Government is pinning high hopes on 5G launch but is it that easy?

Budget 2019-20: 5G is expected to drive a large volume of citizen services under Digital India

Union Budget 2019: Amid the dilemma around when the commercial 5G services will be launched in India, the government is targeting the year 2020 to begin rolling out the next-generation wireless services. The Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, at a conference in May, said the trials are likely to begin in the next 100 days, the success of which will set the course of spectrum auction. 5G will reshape the implementation of Digital India as it encompasses a wide variety of applications, which government can harness at its disposal.

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed the price of Rs 492 per MHz in the 3300MHz – 3600MHz band of 5G spectrum. According to reports, telcos and 5G equipment suppliers have raised concerns over the exorbitant rates that do not fall in line with those in other countries where 5G services were recently commenced. While the companies dealing in the manufacturing of 5G gear will not be directly affected by the spectrum price, it is likely to raise the burden on the delivery of the equipment, which will be used by telecom companies for 5G services.

If the government wants to make Digital India reach every nook and corner of the country, 5G could act as a catalyst for the fulfilment of Modi’s dream. However possible this may sound, the TRAI and telcos need to find a middle ground for the 5G spectrum auction. The proposition that 5G spectrum pricing is too high to ensue the complete outreach may throw 5G launch off the track. This makes it necessary for the spectrum pricing to be viable with the telcos.

“This is important because the Indian satellite communications sector is perhaps the only industry still stuck in the 2G era and suffers chronic capacity shortage resulting in users continuing to pay much higher than global rates. There is a surge of investment and innovation in the space sector globally driven by the private sector but in India, the private sector is locked out and a huge investment and employment opportunity is being lost,” said Pranav Roach, President, Hughes Network Systems India.

Airtel, which is relentlessly vying for the top spot that is currently held by Vodafone Idea after the merger, has already begun the process of phasing out 3G network starting with Kolkata. The telco is upgrading its 4G LTE network in the 900MHz spectrum that offers network stability better than other bands. It is also tussling to launch the 5G services ahead of its close rival Reliance Jio. Jio has many accolades when it comes to making breakthroughs in the country’s telecom industry, including the introduction of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology.

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