Airtel in talks with Indian firms to deploy private networks: Report
Bharti Airtel said that contracts for private 5G networks will represent a large portion of the carrier’s future 5G revenues
Indian operator Bharti Airtel is currently having talks with a number of local enterprises with the aim of deploying private 5G networks, local newspaper The Economic Times reported based on comments from Gopal Vittal, the carrier’s managing director and CEO.
“We are in multiple conversations to build Standalone private 5G networks for large distributed enterprises,” the executive reportedly said.
According to the report, private networks contracts will be a key piece of future telco enterprise revenues estimated to represent nearly 40% of total 5G revenues.
The executive also noted that the telco aims to reach nationwide coverage with its 5G networks by March of 2024, with the aim of reaching 5,000 towns and cities with this technology.
“Airtel is well positioned to win the 5G game (…) We intend to launch 5G services immediately and by March 2024 will be able to cover every town and key rural areas as well,” Vittal said.
The telco recently secured 19,800 megahertz of spectrum in the latest spectrum auction conducted by the Department of Telecom. Bharti Airtel secured a pan-Indian footprint in the 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands, in addition to bolstering its mid-band holdings.
The government of India is analyzing the potential direct allocation of 5G spectrum to local companies and will make a final decision on this issue after it fully understands the legal aspects, The Economic Times recently reported, citing a government official.
“Direct assignment is very complex because we must see the legality and demand in India. Even globally, a very small and niche area is set aside for private networks,” the official said. “Our understanding is that the total number of private networks across the world is in the low thousands. So, that trend is likely to continue in India as well.”
Ashwini Vaishnaw, minister for electronics, IT and communications, recently said that allocating 5G spectrum to private companies was a complex issue.
“Direct assignment of the spectrum is still a work in progress, because we have to have a demand study, then see the legality of it and only then take some decision,” Vaishnaw said.
Some technology companies in India have publicly expressed interest in the direct allocation of 5G spectrum for the deployment of private networks.
The Department of Telecom has said that it would analyze the current demand for direct allocation of spectrum for private networks.
The government of India had decided to allow enterprises to deploy and run private networks. The cabinet noted it decided to enable private networks to support a new wave of industrial applications in sectors such as automotive, healthcare, agriculture and energy, among others.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had previously told the government that local carriers will have less incentives to deploy 5G networks if authorities allowed private companies to run their own private 5G networks.
The COAI, which has local operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea as some of its key members, had sent a letter to India’s Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stating that there is “no business case for the roll out of 5G networks” if the government allowed local enterprises to deploy and operate their own 5G networks.
Meanwhile, Broadband India Forum (BIF), which supports private networks, had published a paper in which it has challenged the premise that Indian operators would lose revenues as the entity considers that private 5G will lead to increased productivity for enterprises which will in turn increase the need for more external communications.