The wireless planning and coordination (WPC) section of India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has agreed to award a six-month allocation of spectrum in the 3.5GHz, 26GHz and 700MHz bands to the country’s three leading operators: Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea).
As Indian press reports indicate, the allocation is particularly crucial for Jio and Airtel, which already have 5G-ready networks and have bought extra spectrum in a recent auction as backup, so will no doubt welcome the trial spectrum allocations.
The DoT has also said that the various operators will be allowed to use their own spectrum in the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2500MHz bands to conduct 5G trials.
The three service providers will be particularly pleased that 26GHz (millimetre wave) spectrum has been allocated for the trials after much lobbying on their part about its importance to the 5G business case.
That said, the 26GHz spectrum is to be used solely for trial purposes – at least, based on what has so far been announced by the government. In fact only spectrum in the 3.3-3.6GHz bands has been earmarked by the government for 5G services, though there is some optimism that 26GHz will eventually be part of an updated National Frequency Allocation Plan.
As things stand, the DoT hasn’t even scheduled a 5G spectrum sale yet, so it’s quite likely that operators will continue to lobby for more spectrum as well as base prices more acceptable than those so far suggested.