5G Spectrum Auction: DoT Likely to Reserve More 5G Bands for Allocation

DoT is looking likely to include mmWave spectrum in the updated NFAP before the upcoming 5G spectrum auction and rollout.

Hemant Kashyap
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After telcos, under COAI, reached out to DoT on 15th March to include more 5G bands, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will set aside more spectrum bands before the 5G spectrum auction. The telcos hope that this will reduce cost of rollouts and consequently lower consumer pricing.


5G Spectrum Auction and National Frequency Allocation Plan

DoT will release a revised spectrum policy document in the coming two weeks. This document will include spectrum across all three frequency levels related to 5G in the updated National Frequency Allocation Plan. These bands include:

  • Low Frequency Bands which is Sub-1 Ghz.
  • Medium Frequency Bands, which include frequency between 1-6 Ghz.
  • mmWave includes all frequency bands above 6 Ghz, most notably 26 and 28 GHz bands.

This updated policy will work as a framework for where the available 5G bands will be used. In India, applications include mobile broadband, defence, satellite operations under the Department of Space (DoS). Further applications include aviation, I&B, railways and home ministries.

A Slice of the mmWave Cake for Everyone

Here, there is a need to highlight the importance of mmWave spectrum. These bands come in the high frequency range of 5G spectrum. Their utility, and therefore, their value, lies in their efficiency and compatibility with 5G. These waves are highly energy efficient and can handle large amounts of network volume. This makes 26 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum bands highly valuable assets for telcos. What's more, mmWave spectrum can support speeds of more than 2 Gbps.


Apart from their utility, these bands will also act to significantly lower costs of operation for telcos, making the services cheaper for the end user.

Right now, TRAI has only reserved spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 Ghz bands for 5G, which comes in mid-range. TRAI has noted that both mmWave and high range mid-band 5G airwaves are with the DoS and Defence Ministry. Adding to the conundrum, the DoS had earlier objected to telcos getting spectrum in the 26 Ghz band for 5G. It said that the allocation can cause interference between satellite and 5G networks. Telcos, however, argue otherwise, stating that both can coexist without causing harm to each other.

An apex panel of secretaries recently urged DoS and the Defence Ministry to consider DoT’s request to part with all idle 5G spectrum for commercial use. Notably, telcos want at least 400 units of mmWave spectrum per operator for smooth, cost-effective rollout and operations.


When is the 5G Spectrum Auction Happening?

DoT is yet to schedule the first 5G spectrum auction of India. Notwithstanding their utility and capabilities, mmWaves also are critical for global 5G device ecosystem. Since the majority of the 5G networks operate on these bands, it also becomes important from a compatibility point of view. In light of this, the telcos recently urged DoT Secy Anshu Prakash to push TRAI to include these bands in the auction as well.

The DoT has urged the government to release 3,000 units of premium mmWaves which are unused as of now. Along with these, there are around 300 units in the 3.3-3.6 Ghz spectrum bands available for use as well.

Reliance JioBharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have publicly stated that they already have 5G-ready networks. It is just the matter of diversification of spectrum bandwidth which is crucial for a successful 5G rollout.

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