Centre should have ensured basic infrastructure before going for 5G spectrum sale, feel experts

Experts said that Centre should have first tackled issues such as poor infrastructure due to insufficient towers, good quality fiber and proper equipment for rolling out ‘world-class’ 5G services

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NH Political Bureau

Despite much hullabaloo over the ongoing auction of spectrum for fifth generation (5G) services by the Centre, telecom sector experts feel that the huge amount of money being mopped up by it may not necessarily translate into better services for the consumers.

Experts opined that the government should have first tackled issues such as poor infrastructure due to insufficient towers, good quality fiber and proper equipment for rolling out ‘world-class’ 5G services.

Referring to a report released by LocalCircles, an expert associated with a State-owned telecom company said on the condition of anonymity that “more than nine out of 10 mobile phone users in India complained of poor wireless connectivity…”.

About 48% of 8,210 consumers surveyed by LocalCircles cited dissatisfaction from frequent disruption of mobile services owing to poor network availability while 44% were disgruntled with low data speeds.

“If infrastructural hurdles are not taken care of, with a telecom policy in place which promotes domestic competition, the dream of Digital India will not be fulfilled,” he added.

Many other experts appearing on various TV shows have echoed similar concerns.

Apart from Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited group, Sunil Bharti Mittal-led Airtel, Vodafone and Gautam Adani’s group joined the bid to buy 5G spectrum.

At the time of publishing of this report, the auction process was underway for the second consecutive day, with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd emerging as the lead player. It deposited Rs 14000 crore as EMD (earnest money deposit) on Tuesday.

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has said, “This will surpass the record of 2015 when revenue collection from auction stood at Rs 1.09 lakh crore”.

As per information put out by the Telecom Department, Reliance Jio is interested in 700 MHz airwave band which had not seen any takers in the spectrum auction conducted in 2016 and 2021.

It is being claimed that 5G services, which are expected to be rolled out by September, will facilitate solutions such as e-health, connected vehicles, more immersive augmented reality, metaverse experiences and advanced mobile cloud gaming among others.

As per industry watchers, though the unexpected entry of the Adani Group in the telecom sector had led to some degree of excitement, Jio was set to lead the market in the coming years.

Meanwhile, employees’ union leaders of State-owned BSNL have reiterated their demand for removal of ‘road-blocks’ in its launch of 4G services.

“At a time when private companies are getting ready to launch their 5G service, BSNL’s 4G service is nowhere in sight,” said P Abhimanyu, convener of All Unions and Associations of BSNL.

“In May 2022 alone, BSNL lost 5.3 lakh customers,” he contended.

Speaking to National Herald, he said that TCS, identified by the Centre to supply 4G equipment to BSNL, had not even completed its Proof of Concept (PoC) yet.

He said BSNL had placed an order to procure 6,400 BTSs (Base Transceiver Stations) but TCS had not accepted the Purchase Order.

“BSNL’s Revival Package remains only on paper. The company’s financial condition is deteriorating fast due to the non-availability of 4G services,” he said.

Abhimanyu said the company’s employees were all set to hold a protest on Thursday against the handing over of BSNL’s towers to private players.

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