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India has given various domestic telcos, alongside certain network equipment vendors from around the world, approval to conduct six-month trials on 5G technology. Of note, however, is that none of the network equipment vendors in the trial will be from China.

The decision to exclude Chinese manufacturers comes despite Huawei last year receiving permission to participate in India’s 5G trial phase. The minister responsible for India’s telco sector, Ravi Shankar Prasad, last year said, “5G trials will be done with all vendors and operators”.

Instead of using Chinese network equipment, the 5G trials will use Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and C-DOT kit, the Department of Telecommunications said in a statement. In addition, Reliance Jio, one of the telcos that received approval, will conduct trials using its own indigenous technology.

The other telcos that received trial approval are Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, and MTNL.

For the trials, the telcos will use experimental spectrum doled out by the Indian government, which are in various bands across the mid-band, millimetre wave band, and in sub-gigahertz band. The telcos will also be allowed to use their own spectrum to conduct the 5G trials, including those won two months ago in the nation’s most recent spectrum auction.

Part and parcel of the approvals will be the requirement for the 5G trials to be conducted in rural, semi-urban settings, and urban settings so that the benefit of 5G technology is not confined only to urban areas, the Department of Telecommunications said.

Another requirement is that the trials must be run on a non-commercial basis and not be connected with any of the telcos’ existing networks.

The department added that the objectives of the 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, and drone-based agricultural monitoring, among others; and testing 5G phones and devices.

The trial approvals come six months after Reliance Industries’ CEO, Mukesh Ambani vowed that the telco would roll out commercial 5G networks during the latter half of 2021.

“I assure you that Jio will pioneer the 5G revolution in India in the second half of 2021,” said Ambani, during his keynote at India Mobile Congress 2020. 

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