India will not be able to launch 5G services until the end of this year or early in 2022, according to a recent report by the Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology.
The report blames the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for not doing enough to ensure a speedier launch of the new technology.
India typically lags developed markets when it comes to the launch of new wireless technologies. It had sought to change this with 5G, allocating funds and setting up 5G to support the new technology.
"It is likely that after missing the 2G, 3G and 4G bus, India is going to miss 5G opportunities, unless time-bound action is taken in core areas where governmental intervention is required," the report said.
The report also said service providers face a number of constraints. "The Committee finds that inadequate availability of spectrum, high spectrum prices, poor development of use cases, low status of fiberization, non-uniform RoW [Right of Way] issues, deficient backhaul capacity, etc., are some of the factors coming in the way of rolling out of 5G services in India," it said.
The findings come after authorities modified rules to allow 5G rollout on currently licensed spectrum.
India plans to auction 5G-suitable spectrum in the 3.3-3.6GHz range later this year. The government also plans to run 5G trials later this year.
But Bharti Airtel, India's second-largest service provider, recently demonstrated the use of 1800MHz spectrum to provide 5G services. That combined with new rules mean operators could feasibly launch 5G services later this year after the conclusion of a 4G spectrum auction next month.
Reliance Jio, India's biggest operator, is aiming for a 5G launch in the second half of this year. Yet even if the operators manage to launch 5G services in 2021, India is still far behind many other countries on service rollout.
Low tariffs and telco debts put India's operators in a difficult position given the vast sums that technology pioneers commit to research and development.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading