The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, working in association with IBM, has completed a series of blockchain-based pilot projects to improve the country's mobile network. Photo: iStock
The Indian government has made new changes to the rules on telecom payments. Photo: iStock

The Indian government said commercial 5G services will be rolled out in 13 cities, including the six metros, in 2022.

The telecom department stated that the cities are Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Jamnagar.

As part of its year-end review, the telecom department said the “process of assignment of frequencies to TSPs (telecom service providers) would be initiated at the earliest possible time.”

It also said the three telecom players – Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea – have established 5G trials sites in the 13 cities.

Testing facility

The indigenous 5G Testbed project, funded by the Telecom Department, has reached the final stages and the project is likely to be completed by December 31, 2021. The 2.24 billion (US$29.9 million) rupee project involved eight agencies – the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Madras, IIT Kanpur, Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering and Research and Centre for Excellence in Wireless Technology.

The project will provide end-to-end testing of 5G user equipment and network equipment for telecom players.

The three telecom players have been allocated spectrum for 5G trials and global firms such as Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and Mavenir are engaged in trials.

Spectrum price

Meanwhile, telecom service providers have demanded that 5G spectrum prices should be affordable. Access to adequate low-cost spectrum and easy payment terms are essential for companies to plan their investments, the companies told the government.

In November, the Cellular Operators Association of India asked the government to reduce the spectrum base price by more than half, especially for 5G services.

During an auction in March 2021, the government offered 2,308.80 MHz of spectrum in seven bands, at a reserve price of nearly 4 trillion rupees. However, airwaves in the premium 700 MHz and 2,500 MHz bands did not find any takers, mainly due to the high base price.

The telecom department also stated that rural teledensity had jumped from 44% in March 2014 to 59% in September 2021. Broadband connections have risen more than 12 times to 790 million in June 2021 from 61 million in March 2014.