These applications were filed in response to an exercise launched by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to test the demand for spectrum to set up private networks.
One of the options under a spectrum allotment policy announced in June was for the department to directly allocate airwaves for such captive networks, but only after conducting a demand study.
DoT had clarified that the current exercise was to study the demand and that an application at this stage would not mean spectrum would be assigned to the applicant.
It has also not given any deadline on direct spectrum allocation. Industry executives feel that it may take one to two years before the government comes out with detailed rules around the allocation.
Queries sent to Infosys, Capgemini, L&T, GMR, Tejas Networks and other companies remained unanswered at the time of going to press on Thursday.
According to the initial guidelines on private networks released by the telecom department, enterprises that want to set up their own captive networks can lease spectrum from telecom operators or get it directly from DoT.
As part of the demand study, companies having a net worth of more than Rs 100 crore and willing to set up captive non-public networks, or private networks, were allowed to apply for spectrum.
Trai Views on Pricing Sought
Apart from this, the department has written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to give recommendations around pricing at which spectrum can be allotted.
Under private networks, corporate houses can set up their own WiFi and data network instead of taking the services from a telecom service provider as is the norm today. The concept of private networks is emerging as one of the most promising enterprise use cases of 5G.
The issue of direct allocation of spectrum to enterprises for setting up captive private networks has been a contentious one, pitching technology firms against telecom operators.
Telcos vs Tech Cos
Since June, when the Cabinet approved the proposal of direct allocation of spectrum to enterprises, telcos have been opposing the move, alleging that it would distort the level-playing field and give technology players a backdoor entry to provide 5G services to enterprises.
Tech companies, meanwhile, have been lobbying intensely for such direct allocation for setting up captive networks, saying that forcing them to take spectrum from telcos would rob them of flexibility and efficiency. They also have spoken out against the DoT’s demand study, saying that in the absence of any timelines around its completion, telecom operators will get a first mover’s advantage.
Broadband India Forum, which counts technology players like Facebook, Google, Cisco, Amazon, Tata Consultancy Services, Microsoft and Intel as its members, said that demand estimation could be envisaged for public/external networks but never heard of for captive/non-public usage which would vary from entity to entity and category to category. The association has been reaching out to DoT for provisional allocation of spectrum to enterprises till the time such demand studies are completed and Trai gives its recommendations.