Telco’s demands ‘absurd and impractical’, says BIF

The battle over private captive networks continues, with tech companies challenging telcos’ demands for a level playing field between public and captive private 5G networks. Broadband India Forum (BIF), an association that counts technology players such as Facebook, Google, Cisco, Amazon, TCS, Microsoft and Intel, called telecom operators’ claims “absurd and impractical” on Tuesday because the two are completely different sets of services. and do not compete with each other.

The BIF has also termed a suggestion from the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) as “unwarranted” demanding that private networks be denied spectrum in bands that can be used by telcos to provide services. “Private networks are not in the business of selling telecom services and earning revenue, but would use the same purely for their own consumption. In addition, the telcos’ businesses depend on economies of scale, while those of private network companies are not dependent on economies of scale,” BIF said.

COAI has written to the government to seek a level playing field with tech companies around private networks. The COAI had shared a range of requirements and conditions around private networks, such as the imposition of license fees and GST, quality of service and security conditions.

“Seeking a level playing field with closed private network companies is like a kindergarten kid being asked to compete with someone who has a PhD. No mature regulator anywhere in the world is regulating a player with no or minimal market share,” said BIF president TV Ramachandran.
BIF said telcos can run their networks at full power, while private networks must limit power to a regulated level, much like Wi-Fi networks, to prevent signals from flowing out of their buildings. Therefore, the same spectrum can be reused many times in multiple different locations, unlike 5G public networks.

“The age-old and tried-and-true concept of a level playing field cannot apply in the case of captive private 5G networks, as they have several distinguishing features that set them apart from public networks, which they are compared to without any logic or basis” , said BIF.

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