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BIF calls for implementation of Cabinet decision on captive networks in ‘letter and spirit’

Broadband India Forum (BIF) has raised concerns over the possibility that the Government is initially considering including only the framework for enterprises to set up private 5G networks in partnership with telecom operators, by taking spectrum on lease or by getting their networks built by them.

In a statement to the press, the industry body said that such an action, if taken, will provide a “regulatory advantage to one side, more so since that side is already overly strong and has the advantages of huge external market power of an incumbent network”, which directly impacts the businesses of the weak non-telecom vertical players, i.e. enterprises.

The statement came in the wake of media reports suggesting that to start with, the framework for enterprises will include setting up captive networks in partnership with telcos.

TV Ramachandran, president, BIF, said, “If the mentioned media reports are taken to be true, these guidelines would surely distort competition and go against the essence of the Cabinet decision as well as the NIA dated 15th June 2022, wherein there was no indication that the options for incumbents to offer these services first were to be facilitated.”

In the notice inviting applications (NIA) released by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on June 15, it was announced that enterprises can avail spectrum directly from the government. The allocation however will happen after the DoT has carried out a demand assessment.

Ramachandran added that the move will create undesired differences in the system at the very beginning, and “would also lead to uncertainty and a Hobson’s choice for the enterprises for setting up their CNPNs”, which in turn, would lead to sub-optimal outcomes for the enterprises as regards efficiency, quality and cost of service being offered/made available to them.

BIF further argued that to truly implement the Cabinet decision in letter and spirit, enterprises should be provided a suitably calibrated handicap to offset the disadvantage they face due to the privileged position that the other side holds.

It added that the enterprises should have the right to choose with whom they partner to set up their private captive networks right from the beginning.


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