Unsure if Airwaves in 5G Trials Will Be Auctioned: Telcos

India’s Big Telco – Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea – have said that they are not sure whether they will receive any of the trial spectrum on a commercial scale. This development can mean another fresh roadblock for India’s much delayed 5G Trials.

Fresh Problems for 5G Trials

The TSPs, via COAI, have said that they cannot spend time, effort and money to develop 5G use cases around these mmWave bands without any commercial commitment from the government’s side. The telcos have asked DoT to revise the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP-2021). COAI said that DoT should include these vital mmWave band airwaves. The industry body hopes that it will give them clarity going in the 5G trials.

SP Kochhar, DG, COAI, said, “a reminder has just been sent to DoT that the revised NFAP has still not been finalised by its Wireless Planning & Coordination wing even after various meetings of the working groups were held and inputs provided by all stakeholders”.

Earlier this month, DoT provided telcos with experimental 5G spectrum for Trials. These airwaves included mmWave spectrum as well. However, it does not find a place in the current NFAP. All in all, the telcos received frequencies in mid-band (3.2-3.67 GHz), sub-GHz (700/800 MHz) and mmWave bands (26-28 GHz).

So far, however, only mid-band spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz bands has been earmarked by the government for 5G services.

5G Launch Still Uncertain

India runs the risk of rolling out an unaffordable 5G if mmWaves are not included in NPAF-2021, industry executives say. They say that 5G deployment costs would jump manifold because of omission of these waves.

Industry executives note that any further delays in deciding on what spectrum to sell will set the next auction back by another year or so. Also, this can also put telcos off developing 5G use cases relevant to India.

Crucially, mmWave bands offer high throughput – above 2 Gbps – and huge capacity. Both of which are critical for running 5G so that it is economically viable for telcos. What’s more, the bulk of the global 5G ecosystem is evolving around these bands.

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