The Indian telecom ministry on Tuesday said it has granted several telecom service providers permission to conduct a six-month trial for the use and application of 5G technology in the country. New Delhi has granted approval to over a dozen firms spanning multiple nationalities -- excluding China.
Among the telecom operators that have received the grant include Jio Platforms, Airtel, Vodafone Idea and MTNL. These firms, the ministry said, will work with original equipment manufacturers and tech providers Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-Dot. Jio Platforms, additionally, has been granted permission to conduct trials using its own homegrown technology.
In a press note, the Department of Telecommunications didn't specify anything about China, but a person familiar with the matter confirmed that Chinese giants Huawei and ZTE aren't among those who have received the approval.
Last year, Airtel (India's second-largest telecom operator) had said that it was open to the idea of collaborating with global firms for components. “Huawei, over the last 10 or 12 years, has become extremely good with their products to a point where I can safely today say their products at least in 3G, 4G that we have experienced is significantly superior to Ericsson and Nokia without a doubt. And I use all three of them,” Sunil Mittal, the founder of Airtel, said at a conference last year.
In the same panel, then U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross had urged India and other allies of the U.S. to avoid Huawei. The geo-political tension between India and China escalated last year with skirmishes at the shared border. India, which early last year amended a rule to make it difficult for Chinese firms to invest in Indian companies, has since banned over 200 apps including TikTok, UC Browser and PUBG Mobile that have affiliation with China over cybersecurity concerns.
India's move on Tuesday follows similar decisions taken by the U.S., U.K. and Australia, all of which have expressed concerns about Huawei and ZTE and their ties with the Chinese government.
The Indian government branch said it gave permission to telecom service providers, who chose their own priorities and technology partners.
The experimental spectrum is being given in various bands that include the midband (3.2 GHz to 3.67 GHz), millimeter wave band (24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz) and in sub-gigahertz band (700 GHz). Technology service providers will also be permitted to use their existing spectrum owned by them (800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2500 MHz) to conduct 5G trials.
"The permission letters specify that each TSP will have to conduct trials in rural and semi-urban settings also in addition to urban settings so that the benefit of 5G Technology proliferates across the country and is not confined only to urban areas. The TSPs are encouraged to conduct trials using 5Gi technology in addition to the already known 5G technology," the ministry said in a statement.
"The objectives of conducting 5G trials include testing 5G spectrum propagation characteristics especially in the Indian context; model tuning and evaluation of chosen equipment and vendors; testing of indigenous technology; testing of applications (such as tele-medicine, tele-education, augmented/virtual reality, drone-based agricultural monitoring, etc.); and to test 5G phones and devices."