Adani, Vi may face fines if they fail 5G minimum rollout rule

New Delhi: The department of telecommunications (DoT) is evaluating the possibility of imposing penalties against Vodafone Idea and Adani Data Networks, if they fail to meet rollout obligations set for rolling out 5G network in the first phase.

According to three DoT officials, the companies have taken the unified licence under which minimum rollout of 5G must be met within a year of getting airwaves, failing which the department will proceed with invoking a clause in the notice inviting applications, or NIA, that mandates penal action against the defaulting companies.

“There is a proposal but a final decision is yet to be taken. Also, there is still time for the telcos to meet the network rollout obligation’s minimum requirement,” said one of the officials. Penalties of 1 lakh per week for the first 13 weeks, followed by 2 lakh per week for the next 13 weeks, will be levied on the telcos that do not meet the obligation. A show cause notice will be issued before penalties are levied.

A second official said that the companies were yet to communicate their plans for meeting the rollout conditions, while adding that the government was not in favour of giving any extensions to the deadline. All carriers received the airwaves on 18 August 2022. While Airtel and Jio have together put up over 200,000 5G sites between themselves, Vodafone Idea and Adani Data Networks are yet to deploy any site, with the last date nearing on Thursday.

According to the conditions, telcos have to launch 5G services anywhere in the licensed service area in a metro and at least one city or town in a non-metro area, in the first year of spectrum acquisition for airwaves in the 3.3-3.5GHz band. For the spectrum in 26GHz band, the telco can launch commercial service anywhere in the service area within a year as per the minimum obligation.

The DoT, Adani Data Networks and Vodafone Idea did not respond to queries as of Tuesday.

Vodafone Idea’s CEO Akshaya Moondra has said in previous earnings calls that the carrier will meet the minimum rollout obligation and that it will not require much investment. The telco has already conducted 5G testing with all major handset companies on 5G clusters have also been set up in Delhi and Pune, the carrier has said in its annual report.

Adani Data Networks has airwaves only in the 26Ghz band and is, therefore, mandated to launch commercial service anywhere in the service area within a year.

Industry insiders said the lack of use cases and high cost of equipment in the 26Ghz had prevented carriers to launch commercial services in the band. However, Bharti Airtel that has airwaves in the 26Ghz band launched nationwide 5G services last week. The No. 1 carrier Reliance Jio launched its nationwide 5G service on the band on Monday, thus meeting the first phase of rollout obligations.

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Updated: 15 Aug 2023, 10:29 PM IST


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