US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has backed opening up of the 6 Ghz spectrum band in India for unlicensed WiFi services, saying it would benefit consumers and innovators, and that the US telecoms regulator would be happy to share its experience with India. Pai, who steps down on January 20, in tandem with US President Donald Trump’s exit, told ET’s Kalyan Parbat in an interview that India should follow US’s lead in preventing insecure technologies into its telecom networks. Edited excerpts.

US tech giants want India’s telecom regulator Trai to emulate US FCC and back the opening up of the 6 Ghz band for unlicensed technologies like WiFi-6 that support 5G-like speeds. But India’s telcos warn this would spoil the 5G business case. Your thoughts.

This would be a decision for my friends in India to make but I am very proud of FCC’s decision on the 6 Ghz band, which has increased the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi in the US almost by a factor of five, and I’m more than willing to share my experience with our friends in India. This will provide a huge benefit to consumers and innovators. From Wi-Fi routers to home appliances, Americans’ use of devices that connect to the internet over unlicensed spectrum has exploded, and our actions will go a long way towards accommodating that increase in Wi-Fi demand.

But telcos in India say 6 Ghz is ideal mid-band 5G spectrum that must be auctioned and not delicensed…

This is a decision for my counterparts in India to make. I would, though, add that global harmonisation of spectrum allocations is an important priority for us as it can lead to more efficient use of spectrum and economies of scope and scale.

India plans to declare a list of ‘trusted sources’ for buying network gear, a move seen as the first official step to keep China’s Huawei and ZTE out of India’s future telecom expansion and 5G roll outs. Do you welcome the decision?

I can’t speak for what the Indian government is planning with this action, but I would welcome India and all free, democratic nations to follow our lead in preventing insecure technologies into their telecom networks.

FCC has named Huawei/ZTE as threats to US national security. Does the US have a similar list of ‘trusted sources’ for network gear procurements?

The framework we created does not endorse particular telecom equipment manufacturers or vendors as ‘trusted sources’. The rules we have adopted create a process for designating certain entities as ‘covered companies’ that pose a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain.

Your views on the global uproar over WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy?

In the US, these issues are generally within the jurisdiction of another federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission.India’s telecom industry is split over adoption of a homegrown 5G standard. Some say it can lead to the first Indian 5G IPR. Others warn such a move won’t work commercially and could make India an island on the global 5G stage. Your thoughts.

Internationally adopted standards allow for economies of scope/scale in the production of communications gear as well as inter-operability in cross-border communications. FCC and the US telecom industry have thrived under light-touch regulations, including flexible-use policies for spectrum assignments. We have relied on industry-led standards bodies like 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project)—with insight from FCC as needed—to set industry standards to ensure inter-operability.

Should India emulate the US and auction both mid-band 5G spectrum and millimeter waves to ensure cost-efficient roll outs and affordable 5G services?

I will leave it to the parties in India to decide how and which bands are best for auctioning, but I will provide my full-throated endorsement of the general approach to spectrum auctions adopted in the US over the past quarter century, as well as to the ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to spectrum re-purposing that is a hallmark of the FCC’s 5G FAST Plan.