08:39 GMT25 February 2021
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    India planned to roll out high speed 5G services in 2020 but the pandemic delayed trials. India’s border woes with China have also pushed away Chinese 5G players like Huawei and ZTE, stalling things further.

    India’s Department of Telecom (Dot) has informed a parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology (IT) headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor that 5G will not be available in the country before the beginning of next year.

    "By the end of calendar year 2021 or beginning of 2022, there will be some roll out in India in some specific uses, because 4G should continue in India for at least another 5-6 years," the panel noted in its 125 page report tabled in the parliament.

    Tharoor’s 31-member parliamentary panel expressed disappointment at DoT’s announcement, saying that India will miss opportunities afforded by 5G unless the government acts fast. 

    “From the foregoing, the committee is inclined to conclude that sufficient preparatory work has not been undertaken for launching 5G services in India. As such, India has not moved beyond the modest beginning stage as compared to other countries in the world. So, it is likely that after missing the 2G, 3G and 4G bus, India is going to miss 5G opportunities, unless time-bound action is taken in core areas where governmental intervention is required,” reads the parliamentary IT panel report.

    Questions regarding India’s 5G preparation were raised before the DoT after telecom industry body – Cellular Operations Association of India (COAI) – approached Tharoor’s committee.

    As part of its concern, COAI told the parliamentary panel that “telecom operators had submitted the applications of 5G trials in January 2020 and till date, the guidelines for trials have not been made clear. There is no set date for commencement of these trials.”

    India's Ministry of Information Technology has also informed the panel that 5G will be rolled out not in select areas first, not nationwide. 

    In recent months, India seems to have ramped up the development of an ecosystem to support 5G in the country – without help from Chinese companies.

    While Indian telco Reliance Jio headed by multi-billionaire Mukesh Ambani is working on developing indigenous 5G systems, network operator Bharti Airtel is working with foreign tech players like Finnish company Nokia to develop 5G systems in India. 

    Earlier in January, India and Japan signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreeing to work together on the development of advanced tech sectors. 

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