As the year comes to end, the continuing uncertainty about India’s 5G plans remains unresolved. Operators are now urging the country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to auction 26 GHz spectrum in the upcoming spectrum sale.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents all the country’s main operators, has suggested to telecom secretary Anshu Prakash that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) should include 26 GHz spectrum in the list of 5G airwave bands earmarked for the upcoming auction, whose date has not yet been set.
Based on decisions taken at ITU’s recent World Radio Communications 2019 conference in Egypt, COAI suggests that 26 GHz spectrum could be a prime band for 5G in India as there will not be enough 5G spectrum in other bands such as 3.5 GHz and 7 GHz.
However, it has so far been assumed that some or all of the 26 GHz spectrum band will go to government agencies such as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). COAI director general Rajan Mathews has suggested that airwaves in the 29 GHz, 30 GHz, 31GHz and 33 GHz bands which aren’t earmarked for 5G may be an alternative for satellite operations.
A DoT proposal — supported by ISRO — to restrict transmission power of 5G mobile base stations running in the 26 GHz band was opposed by Indian operators and has not been accepted by the ITU. In theory then, auctioning 26 GHz spectrum for 5G services is now on the table in India, though DoT has so far only proposed auctioning spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band for 5G .
Regular readers will also be aware that operators are not happy with the base prices suggested by TRAI, though the government has, so far, indicated that the 5G base price will not be cut. A spectrum auction is rumoured to be likely in the April to June 2020 timeframe, though whether operators will, as the government seems to believe, be financially strong enough – or even willing – to take part, is not clear.