Adanis to buy spectrum for private network use; Group confirms auction participation

The Adani Group on Saturday confirmed that it is participating in the upcoming 5G auctions. It said in a statement that the spectrum acquired through auctions will be used for private network solutions.

FE was the only newspaper to have reported in its Saturday edition that the Adani Group’s entry into spectrum auction is for private network purposes and not for providing voice and data telecom services to consumers. “We are participating in the 5G spectrum auction to provide private network solutions along with enhanced cyber security in the airport, ports and logistics, power generation, transmission, distribution, and various manufacturing operations,” Adani Group said in a statement Saturday.

“Also, if we are awarded 5G spectrum in the open bidding, it will also align with our recent announcement of significantly increasing the Adani Foundation’s investments in education, healthcare and skill development in rural areas, each of which stands to benefit from 5G technology,” the statement said.

“In addition, as we build our own digital platform encompassing super apps, edge data centres, and industry command and control centres, we will need ultra high quality data streaming capabilities through a high frequency and low latency 5G network across all our businesses,” the statement elaborated.

FE had reported in its Saturday edition that Adani Group may use the airwaves to set up a private captive network for its data usage, something which has been allowed by the government.

The government has so far allowed enterprises like Adani to build their captive data networks by either taking spectrum on lease by the telecom operators or giving them a turnkey contract to build the same. As far as direct allocation of spectrum to enterprises is concerned, while the government has given an in-principle approval, it has said that it would first assess the demand and then ask the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to frame rules in this regard.

However, there’s nothing in the regulation which prohibits any enterprise from buying spectrum in the auctions and use it for private captive network. It is up to the firm concerned what kind of licence it acquires to use the spectrum.

Though Adani Group has stated that it will use spectrum for private network, it’s quite possible that at a later stage it acquires a unified licence (UL) and starts providing all forms of telecom services, which includes voice and data services to consumers. A UL can also enable it to get into the business of making private network for other enterprises. For a pan-India UL, companies have to pay Rs 15 crore.

There’s a precedent to a stepwise entry into full-fledged telecom services and it would be no surprise if Adani Group gets into the telecom services space in a stage-wise manner.

In 2010, a company called Infotel Broadband acquired data spectrum in 2,300 Mhz. The company at that time had an internet service provider licence under which voice telephony is not allowed. The company was later acquired by Reliance Industries which after acquiring spectrum in other bands, took a universal licence, and started providing 4G services from September 2016 onwards.

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