The Department of Telecommunications is planning to start authorising 5G trials in India starting in September, CNBC-TV18 reported. If started, trials would last for six months before 5G spectrum is actually auctioned to telecom operators. The government is reportedly excluding Chinese gear makers from participating in the trials, in line with the international policy being pushed by the US government, and also consistent with the Indian government’s hostile stance towards Chinese businesses in the wake of the India–China border skirmishes earlier this year. On the September deadline, though, it’s worth noting that the report quotes unnamed sources, which means nobody can really be held accountable to that start date. Bloomberg also reported separately that Chinese gear makers will be excluded from trials.
Except for Jio, telecom operators in India are wary about starting 5G trials too early. Both Vodafone–Idea and Airtel, financially bruised with the spectre of AGR dues hanging over them, have indicated that they wouldn’t participate immediately. Airtel said 5G would only start being relevant in a couple years’ time, and Vodafone–Idea, which has had among its worst quarters yet, didn’t mention 5G at all in its latest earnings release even as entire countries are well on their way to adopting the standard. Jio, which only uses technology from Samsung and open source-based in-housed equipment, has bragged about its readiness for 5G since as early as its launch days.
Prohibiting Chinese tech leaves only Samsung and European companies like Nokia and Ericsson, which could be a daunting proposition for non-Jio telcos, who have bigger problems to worry about. Airtel, though, has said that while it continues to work with Chinese vendors, it will comply with any government order prohibiting them from doing so.