Govt 5G Prep ‘Laidback’ & ‘Disappointing’: Parliament Panel Report
“India has not moved beyond the modest beginning stage as compared to other countries,” the report said.
In a scathing report on India’s preparedness for 5G, the Parliamentary committee on IT described India’s current situation as “insufficient,” “laidback,” and warned that if immediate steps are not taken, India could “miss the 5G bus” just as it did with 2G, 3G and 4G technologies.
In a 125-page report titled “India’s Preparedness for 5G” prepared after months of consultations with all stakeholders, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT observed “there are apprehensions that India is set to miss the 5G bus due to lack of preparedness.”
The 31-member committee, comprising members from across party lines and both houses of Parliament, concluded in its report that “sufficient preparatory work has not been undertaken for launching of 5G services in India.”
Censuring the Union Communications Ministry and the Department of Telecommunications Ministry for the “unconscionably long delay in auctioning of spectrum,” the Committee asked for 5G spectrum allocations at the earliest.
At a time when India is set to launch 5G trials in March, the Committee observed that “As such, India has not moved beyond the modest beginning stage as compared to other countries in the world.”
In preparing this report, the Committee heard the views of the Union Ministry of Communications (Department of Telecommunications), Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association (TEMA). The committee also took evidence of the Department of Telecommunications and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) twice. It also called Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) including Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, Vodafone Idea Limited and Bharti Airtel Limited.
India Could Miss the 5G Bus
The Committee, observing that India has not moved beyond the initial stage of preparation, elaborated on its concern by highlighting how the country missed out on all the previous generations of technology as well.
The report stated that its “observation is enhanced” by the fact that while 2G was deployed globally in 1991, it was deployed in India only in 1995.
Similarly, “3G was deployed globally in 1998 but deployed in India ten years later, i.e. in 2008,” the report points out adding “4G services were launched in India 7 years after their global launching in 2008. This reflects very poorly on our planning and execution.”
“This reflects very poorly on our planning and execution,” the committee observed. According to the testimonies of various stakeholders, including the Union Communications Ministry, the committee concluded that when many countries are swiftly moving towards 5G technology, India is likely to witness its deployment only by the end of 2021 or early part of 2022, that too partially.
“So it is very likely that after missing the 2G, 3G and 4G bus, India is going to miss on 5G opportunities, unless time-bound action is taken in core areas where Governmental intervention is required.”“India’s 5G Preparedness” - Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT Report
Spectrum Allocation Delay
The committee also noted with concern and stated it was “disturbing” that even after a lapse of more than two years since TRAI gave its recommendations for auctioning of spectrum, including 3300 MHz to 3600 MHz in the prime band for 5G, the auction of spectrum in this band is yet to be carried out by the Department of Telecommunication.
The committee also went on to state that it “fails to understand as to how the TSPs (Telecom Service Providers) are going to move towards 5G technology without spectrum, the lifeline for 5G, being allocated.
“No wonder the TSPs and the industry body COAI were in unison in their demand for ―right spectrum at right price as the key for 5G rollout and pleaded for release of spectrum at the earliest,” the report says.
The committee, while “deploring the Department‘s unconscionably long delay in auctioning of spectrum” recommend that spectrum auction including auctioning of 3300 MHz to 3600 MHz must be conducted at the earliest.
The committee, in its report, further stated that it also desires that the process of spectrum allocation must be guided by constitutional provisions and the doctrines of equality and larger public good and that no litigation should further delay the 5G rollout.
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