Reliance Jio, in response to a consulting paper published by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), titled Digital Transformation through 5G Ecosystem, suggested that the government should frame a policy to shut down the 2G and 3G networks in India and move the existing users to 4G and 5G networks. In a separate response, Vodafone Idea (Vi) also made the same suggestion and highlighted that the existence of such barriers lead to a digital divide and impacts the ecosystem for 5G use cases.
The regulatory body sought opinions on the barriers to the development of the ecosystem for 5G use cases, which need to be addressed and the possible policy and regulatory interventions that can overcome them. Responding to this, Reliance Jio stated, “The Government should come out with a policy and glidepath for closing down the 2G and 3G networks completely so that unnecessary network costs should be avoided, and all customers can be migrated to 4G and 5G services.” The telecom operator added that this will also boost the developing ecosystem to 5G use cases.
Separately, Vodafone Idea also submitted its suggestion highlighting a similar measure. “The inability of users to switch to smartphones on account of the cost of these devices also leads to the users continuing on older technology and hence, not using digital services and most likely ending up being not updated on latest digital technologies and services,” it added.
The two major issues with shifting users to a higher network bandwidth include the abundance of phones used in India that are only 2G/3G capable, and the pricing of the 4G and 5G enabled smartphones that might be unaffordable for the rural and remote population of the country. Vodafone Idea highlighted the issue as well and stated that the cost of smartphones for low-income groups is a very big challenge.
Reliance Jio also underlined the necessity for the availability and allocation of a “massive amount” of spectrum bands to better implement a robust 5G connectivity. To solve this, the telecom operator urged that the 6GHz band, full C-Band, and 28GHz (on a flexible use basis) should also be auctioned, along with the planned auction of the E-Band and V-Band spectrum.
It should be noted that these are just the suggestions given to TRAI by Telecom Service Providers and other enablers of the ecosystem. The suggestion does not ensure that the government will take active steps to shut down the 2G and 3G networks. In case, the Centre does move ahead with the proposed suggestion, citizens will get an ample amount of time and assistance from the government to make the transition easy.