Captive Private Networks: Telcos seek level playing field with captive network operators

What is the News?

The government of India has ​​announced that it has reserved a portion of airwaves for Captive Private Networks.

What are Captive Private Networks?

Captive Private Networks are cellular networks built specifically for individual enterprises. These networks are often deployed at a single unit, for example, a factory. 

They can also be used in a wide-area setting, for instance, to monitor a mine in real-time. Airports and ports can also have their own private 5G cellular network to process imaging data coming from surveillance cameras to manage the facility. 

The key reason behind the adoption of Captive Private Networks is that enterprises are demanding more reliability in their applications, better cyber security, lower latency for Machine-2-Machine(m2m) applications. Further, CPNs also have more choice and control in running their networks rather than depending on telcos.

How does the government plan to set aside spectrum for private network operators?

The Department of Telecommunications(DoT) has said that private firms can set up a 5G network by either getting a slice of the public network from a licensed telecom company or obtaining spectrum directly from the Department of Telecom or sub-leasing it from telcos.

Why are telcos opposing the spectrum to Captive Private Networks?

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has voiced concerns over the allocation of the 5G spectrum to captive private networks. It has suggested to the government several conditions that captive private networks should follow to ensure a level playing field. These conditions are:  

Firstly, they should be made to conform to the same license fee and GST payment requirements as the existing telecom providers.

Secondly, the scope of private captive networks is restricted to use within an organization such as machine-to-machine communication and plant automation.

Thirdly, captive private networks should not be permitted on 2G, 3G or 4G technologies and should be assigned spectrum only in the non- International Mobile Telecommunications(IMT) bands. 

Fourthly, private captive networks set up using a dedicated spectrum must store call or data records for two years, keep records of software updates, ensure data localization and allow remote access only from within the country and not allow remote access outside of India. Similar conditions are there for non-captive networks.

Source: The post is based on the article “Telcos seek level playing field with captive network operators” published in Livemint on 20th June 2022.

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