Lack of devices stalling 5G rollout, say Indian operators

Lack of devices stalling 5G rollout, say Indian operators

In an unusual turn of events, India’s operators are said to be asking for a relaxation in 26GHz 5G rollout rules because there are not enough 26GHz-capable devices to make it worthwhile.

The 26GHz band was auctioned in last year's spectrum sale and all four bidders – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Adani Data Networks – had bought 26GHz spectrum for 5G rollout.

The rollout obligations for the 26GHz band are that by the end of the first year a company has to commercially launch service anywhere in each of the three metros and at least in one city in each of India's 22 telecom circles (a service area – usually a state).

Any non-compliance should mean a financial penalty. According to the rules, if the delay in launching the service launch is more than one year, then the spectrum assigned can be taken back. But if there’s no one to use the spectrum because there are no devices, the whole exercise would be an expensive waste of money for operators.

However, this problem may not be the sole reason that Adani Data Networks has failed to roll out 5G. Last week parent company the Adani Group said that felt it has "too little" spectrum — 50 to 100MHz — and it is unable to find suitable use cases to roll out any kind of services. It may thus miss its rollout obligations.

Adani Data Networks bought 400MHz of spectrum in the 26GHz band last year. It too wants a relaxation in the rules, though evidently for different reasons from other operators.

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