Telcos seek clarification on captive non-public networks ahead of 5G spectrum auction | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

Telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm and Vodafone Idea raised concerns and sought clarifications about the government’s decision to allow enterprises to acquire spectrum directly from the government to set up captive non-public networks (CNPN) at the auction pre-bid conference on Monday.

The conference, organised by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), was attended by the three private sector telcos.

Their main concerns centred around the methodology of allotting spectrum to non-telcos, the price at which this spectrum will be made available and the bands of spectrum which will be given out, people in the know told ET.

The telcos also stressed that the allotted spectrum should be used for machine-to-machine (M2M) applications only, and not to set up private networks in areas that may be deemed public, for example large residential townships set up by companies for their employees.

This point was also brought up by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) in its recent letter to the government.

On this point, the telcos also asked how the government intends to differentiate between private and public networks, calling for distinct criteria.

Apart from queries related to CPNP, the attendees also sought clarification on the modality of spectrum to be given to state-owned BSNL.

Clarifications were also sought regarding the earnest money deposit requirement and roll-out obligations mentioned in the notice inviting applications (NIA) released by the DoT on June 15.

The telcos also asked for clarification on the internet browser to be used for the auction process, since the NIA specified the auction would take place using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which was shut down globally on June 16.

On infrastructure, the telcos had questions regarding the electromagnetic frequency regulations since tower density in the country will increase on account of 5G roll-out, and there may be challenges to setting up new towers.

The pre-bid conference was organised for potential auction participants to seek clarifications on matters outlined in the NIA, and any other query they may have regarding the auctions. In the NIA put out on June 16, the DoT set the timeline for this year’s auction which will commence on July 26.

The government will auction nearly 72 GHz of spectrum capable of offering fifth-generation or 5G telecom services worth close to ₹4.3 lakh crore.

The COAI had written to the DoT, expressing disappointment at the government’s decision on captive private networks. It argued that solution providers too should pay licence fee and GST at the rates applicable to telcos on the billed amount of revenue, and that such captive networks must remain “truly” private and isolated, and adhere to security norms.

It said that from a national security perspective, these networks should comply with the prescribed subscriber verification norms, so as to ensure adequate verification and traceability of every user.


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