5G captive networks: 10-year renewable licence, no permit fee

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The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued a set of guidelines for rollout of captive private 5G networks, alongside fresh guidelines to facilitate spectrum leasing for the first time in India. This has been done with an aim of facilitating use of 5G airwaves for development of use cases such as machine-to-machine communications, artificial intelligence, internet of things, etc.

The norms for captive non-public networks (CNPN) call for enterprises wanting to obtain spectrum directly from the government to take a 10-year renewable licence, for which the government won’t charge any licence fee. However, only those enterprises with a net worth of at least Rs 100 crore will be eligible for setting up private 5G networks, and an applicant will have to pay one time non-refundable application processing fee of Rs 50,000 and the licensee will be required to follow stipulated network security norms regarding procurement of telecom equipment from trusted sources.

In case of spectrum leasing, tech companies will be allowed to lease airwaves from one or more telecom service providers will have to submit the details of the spectrum band, the quantum of spectrum, the period of lease, the geographic area, the geo-coordinates of the logical perimeter of the defined premises to the government. Further, revenue earned from leasing spectrum will be part of telecom companies’ gross revenue.

Notably, for CNPNs, the DoT has restricted use of such networks only to private use, disallowing private networks from connecting to public networks “in any manner”. Additionally, both telecom companies and tech companies leasing spectrum will have to ensure that there is no interference caused to any public network or any other licensed user of spectrum. On the scope of the CNPN (captive non-public network) licence for enterprises, the DoT said such a licensee may establish indoor or within premise isolated captive non-public network for own use within the areas of operation of licence.

Earlier this month, alongside announcing the spectrum auction for rollout of 5G services across the country, the government had announced the proposal for tech companies to acquire spectrum directly from it to test and build industry 4.0 applications such as machine-to-machine communications, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, etc.

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