The government is in discussion with Defence, Department of Space and the broadcasting ministry over 5G spectrum and announcement on availability of the radiowaves for the next generation technology will be made shortly, a senior government official said on Thursday. The government has missed the deadline to roll out 5G service in 2020 and telecom players have been demanding that the spectrum be made available at the earliest so that they can start providing the next generation services. “Because of traditional users- Department of Space, Defence and the broadcasting ministry, they have already some services in these (spectrum identified for 5G) bands. It is very important to sit with them and see which of the services can be shifted and which are the bands that are to be made available for the IMT(mobile services),” DoT Member (technology) K Ramchand said at the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2020.
“This will take some time but I am sure shortly we will be coming out with band announcements as well as spectrum details,” he added. On the other hand, telecom operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea on Thursday said 5G spectrum identified by the government for auction is not enough and proposed prices are too high. Telecom operators jointly pushed for starting 5G trials without any further delay. Vodafone Idea also pitched for connecting more towers with fibres to support the next generation technology that will increase data traffic multifold. Reliance Jio Vice President and head for strategic initiatives, regulatory policy and research Vishakha Saigal at the IMC said India needs to embark on the 5G journey without any further delay. “Adequate spectrum is very important. Unfortunately, a smaller block of spectrum is not going to help. When we talk about prime mid band which the government has identified for 5G, the current allocated spectrum block is very less and we need at least 80-100 megahertz of contiguous block of spectrum per operator for successful rollout of 5G,” Saigal said.
Saigal said to encourage long-term investments in 5G, it is important to have transparent and unambiguous spectrum policy with clearly defined roadmap of available airwaves for horizon of at least 4-5 years. The Department of Telecom (DoT) has identified 300 megahertz of spectrum block for 5G services in which Defence and Department of Space have made claims for about 125 mhz leaving only 175 mhz of airwaves for telecom companies. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended base price of proposed 5G spectrum in 3,300-3,600 Mhz band at about Rs 492 crore per Mhz unpaired spectrum on all India basis. This comes to around Rs 50,000 crore for 100 megahertz of 5G spectrum required to deliver 5G services. “Currently, the prescribed prices are grossly inflated and they can seriously impair the ability of the industry and the telecom service providers in the infrastructure,” Saigal said. Bharti Airtel agreed to Jio’s demand around spectrum and demanded that the 5G trials should start immediately. “India is a unique country in terms of challenges and opportunities. We need to embark on 5G trials at the earliest.
5G trials are a must and we should start building ecosystems and use cases which are unique to India. “For 5G trials, spectrum should be allocated for a full 1 year period and due relaxations for import licences or addition of OEMs (original equipment makers) should be allowed by DoT,” Bharti Airtel vice-president for regulatory division Amit Kushwaha said. He added that the proposed spectrum price needs to be revised. Vodafone Idea executive vice president for policy and regulation and regulatory affairs Sundeep Kathuria said other factors like connecting more towers with optical fibres need to be increased. “Effort should be made to fiberise towers. Policy is there at centre level, however, its implementation is lacking in India. There are state bodies, municipalities, resident welfare associations- all play different roles. The cost of laying (fibre) is very high,” Kathuria said. He also said reliable power supply will also be required at mobile towers to support 5G. “Spectrum allocation (in India) is less compared to worldwide. Our network rollout is very high compared to other countries. Something has to be done on pricing at regulatory level which is very essential because if the country has to have 5G, at least a business case of operators needs to be sustainable,” Kathuria said.