Vodafone Idea, the country’s leading telecom operator, said India should put off 5G spectrum auction beyond 2020 as there aren't specific 5G use cases available, and 4G is more than adequate for most customer and Internet of Things services in the near term.
“Most appropriate time to hold auction will be somewhere after 2020,” said Vishant Vora, chief technology officer at Vodafone Idea. “We need time to develop India specific use case, and that takes time… We are working with our partners to develop those India specific use cases, and the maturity of that technology will be there when it makes sense,” he said.
The Indian government is, however, confident of rolling out 5G in tandem with global markets in 2020, and the telecom department (DoT) is expected to hold the next round of spectrum auction sometime after August this year.
The next-generation technology could have an economic impact of more than $1 trillion in the country, according to telecom minister Manoj Sinha.
“We are the largest IoT solutions provider today and we are doing it with 2G, 3G, and 4G today,” Vora said. “There's no need to do 5G for IoT in 95% of these use cases.”
He said 5G will be required for select use cases like virtual reality (VR), HD gaming or remote surgery as these use cases require lower latency and high throughput. “For these services, yes you may need some spectrum, but they are still not the bulk of IoT services.”
Vora said 5G technology is more suitable to come after 2020 as most of the world will go for 5G services only by 2021-2022, and India will go along with them.
Vodafone Idea is currently in the process of merging two networks and has a plan to exit more than 90,000 sites to cut on duplication and reduce capital and operational expenditure. Having finished integration in nine circles, VIL is now aiming to finish the integration by June 2020. It had provided a three-year outlook for integration at the time of the merger.
“We want to deliver the benefits to the shareholders and customers faster,” Vora said, adding that the company also wants to ensure that it adds plenty of capacity while modernising the network.
He said the ongoing issue with tower companies over site exit charges is not coming in the way of achieving network synergies.
VIL has also started refarming its 3G spectrum for 4G technology and is using technologies like dynamic spectrum refarming (DSR) to expand coverage and capacity in India. “My opinion is that 3G will be phased out before 2G,” Vora said.
He said the 2G technology still has some life left as it has a large installed base in India. “There are customers that are satisfied and will continue to use 2G,” Vora said. “A lot of IoT machines were originally done on 2G and GPRS. 2G will not be phased out anytime soon.”