27 Nov Airtel CEO Vittal calls on Govt to keep 5G spectrum prices affordable
KOLKATA: Bharti Airtel chief executive Gopal Vittal has called on the government to keep spectrum prices affordable to give telcos the financial headroom to invest meaningfully in 5G networks.
He also underlined the need for strong collaboration between the government, private sector and academia to leverage the power of the next-gen fast broadband technology and building a vibrant 5G ecosystem, spanning devices, networks, apps and services.
“One of the critical enablers for Digital India is affordable spectrum so that we can invest in building networks rather than spending money on just airwaves,” Vittal said at a Ficci event Thursday.
His comments come at a time when the government plans to hold a 4G airwaves sale in early-2021, which may be followed by a sale of 5G airwaves later next year. Vittal, in fact, had recently said the Sunil Mittal-led telco would give 5G airwaves a miss if auctioned at the reserve prices set by the sector regulator, that it feels are unaffordable.
Fifth-generation wireless broadband technology, he said, is all about building the ecosystem, and for that to happen there is a need for very strong collaboration between academia, government and the private sector that not only includes telecom, but digital players, manufacturing players, banks and IT companies.
“As we get to a 5G world, the real leverage of this technology would come from the capacity to build an ecosystem across devices, networks, applications and services, and that is really what this is all about,” Vittal said.
Calling the telecom industry the country’s connectivity backbone, he stressed the importance of a combination of infrastructure, affordable spectrum and stable, long-term policies, terming them critical enablers for Digital India.
The Airtel CEO also underscored the criticality of fast-track right of way (RoW) clearances to speed up fiberisation of tower networks as India braces for 5G.
In a related development, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) secretary Sunil Kumar Gupta built a strong case for collaborative efforts and initiating field trials for developing India-relevant use cases in order to deploy 5G technology meaningfully in India. “There is a need to encourage trials for use cases that are good for India for 5G to succeed,” the top Trai official said.
Ahead of the next spectrum sale, the Big 3 telcos, Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) are known to be working on the development of locally-relevant 5G use cases are technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and Internet of Things (IoT).