Further 5G fears for Indian operators

Further 5G fears for Indian operators

As the world’s operators, regulators and vendors get together at the World Radio Communications 2019 (WRC-19) conference in Egypt, Indian operators are getting nervous about their government’s proposals for 26 GHz and how it might affect India’s 5G rollout.

According to recent Indian press reports, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has expressed concern at a Department of Telecommunications (DOT) proposal to reduce the transmission power of mobile base stations operating in the 26 GHz spectrum band.

COAI, which represents the big three operators, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm, has suggested that such a move will increase 5G deployment costs by at least 16 times and make 5G wireless broadband unaffordable. 

The International Telecommunication Union is set to finalise the rules around operating 5G networks globally, including in India, later this month at the ongoing WRC-19 conference. The COAI wants the government to ensure that the Indian delegation participating at WRC-2019 supports the commercial deployment of 5G mobile services in the 26 GHz band.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), however, has asked the DoT to propose a sharp cut in the transmission power of mobile base stations operating in this band; the ISRO needs some of the 26 GHz spectrum for satellite services and wants no interference from 5G mobile networks.

The DoT has already set aside spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band for 5G services, but the industry wants it to also auction spectrum in the 26 GHz 5G band.

Government plans to auction only 175 units in the 3.5 GHz band. The COAI has pointed out that there is, in theory, a lot more spectrum available in the 26 GHz band. Reducing transmission power would undermine the 5G business case in the 26 GHz band – a business case already likely to be affected by potentially high spectrum auction prices and ongoing financial issues affecting at least two of the major operators.

Many countries are already planning to roll out 5G in the 26 GHz band. To quote industry association the GSMA: “The introduction of 5G pioneers a new level of mobile performance with ultra-high speeds and low latencies. What makes this possible is millimetre wave spectrum. In this range, 26 GHz and 28 GHz have emerged as two of the most important bands.”

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