The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) says it needs spectrum in the 6-GHz band to enable nationwide 5G coverage without sacrificing data speeds, and that allocating it for Wi-Fi use would be wasting it.
COAI has been pushing India’s Department of Telecommunication (DoT) to release more mid-band spectrum to support further 5G rollouts. the DoT has currently only released 720 MHz of mid-band spectrum, and the 6 GHz band isn’t up for grabs in its next planned 5G auction.
According to the Economic Times, the COAI says the 6 GHz band could provide another 1200 MHz that telcos could use to help expand 5G coverage nationwide.
The COAI cites a 2022 study from the GSMA saying that 5G needs at least 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum to be able to support download speeds of 100 Mbps and upload speeds of 50 Mbps.
"If you want a good 5G, you need 2 GHz. And to get that 2 GHz, we are looking at 6 GHz spectrum band because there, exactly 1200 MHz is available,” COAI director general SP Kochhar told the Economic Times. “So, we are saying that this is uncluttered, you have not used it up anywhere, so give it to us.”
However, that puts telcos at odds with Wi-Fi companies who want the 6 GHz band to remain unlicenced – similar to 2.4 Ghz and 5 GHz – for Wi-Fi usage. The latest Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6E, is designed to enable Wi-Fi 6 to operate in the 6 GHz band.
Kochhar argued that the 6 GHz band would be underutilized if it’s left as an unlicenced band for Wi-Fi 6E.
“The government has given 2.4 GHz and 5.2 GHz as a free spectrum. Have they used it fully? They will not be able to use that [6 GHz] also. They will keep it and use it as and when required,” he said.
The debate over the 6 GHz band isn’t limited to India. At this year’s World Radiocommunications Conference 2023 (WRC-23), one item on the agenda is incorporating the upper part of 6 GHz band (6425-7125 MHz) into the ITU’s IMT. The main proposal is to reserve the 6425-7025 MHz band for IMT in ITU Region 1 (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and the 7025-7125 MHz band worldwide.
Wi-Fi industry groups have opposed the proposal, with the Wi-Fi Alliance claiming that some governments in EMEA remain worried that allocating the upper 6 GHz band for 5G will impact fixed satellite services and some microwave backhaul links.