The tussle over private captive networks continues, with technology companies denouncing telcos’ demands for a level playing field between public and captive private 5G networks. Broadband India Forum (BIF), an association which counts technology players like Facebook, Google, Cisco, Amazon, TCS, Microsoft and Intel as its members, on Tuesday termed the claims of telecom operators as “absurd and impractical”, since the two are entirely different sets of service and are not competing with each other.
The BIF has also termed as “unjustified” a suggestion from Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), demanding that private networks should not be given spectrum in bands which can be used by telcos for offering services. “Private networks are not in the business of selling telecom services and earning revenues from it, but would be using the same purely for self-consumption. Further, the telcos’ businesses depend on economies of scale, while that of enterprise businesses having private networks does not,” BIF said.
COAI has written to the government seeking a level playing field with technology companies around private networks. The COAI had shared a slew of demands and conditions around private networks like imposition of licence fee and GST, quality of service conditions and security conditions.
“Seeking a level playing field with enterprises for captive private networks is akin to a child in kindergarten being asked to compete with someone who has a doctoral degree. No mature regulator anywhere in the world imposes regulation on a player with no or minimal market share,” BIF president TV Ramachandran said.
BIF said telcos can operate their networks in full power, whereas private networks have to restrict power to a regulated level, just like wifi networks, to prevent signals spilling out of their premises. Hence the same spectrum can be reused many times across multiple different locations, unlike the case of public 5G networks.
“The age-old and time-tested concept of “level playing field” cannot apply in the case of captive private 5G networks, as they have several distinctive traits which distinguish them from public networks, with whom they are being compared without any logic or basis,” BIF said.