Bhutan’s regulator has set out its roadmap towards 5G adoption, with deployments expected to begin in 2022.
The Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) has published the Regulator Framework for 5G Deployment in Bhutan. The framework advocates waiting until other markets have deployed the technology so that Bhutan is able to learn from their experiences and “take advantage of the increasingly mature 5G mobile ecosystem.”
BICMA expects to see the first commercial deployments begin in 2022 ahead of a broader rollout from 2024. It has set an agenda to foster the development of a 5G ecosystem in the market, pledging to ensure sustainable competition, follow international standards, price spectrum competitively, and enforce network resilience requirements.
The regulator has also promised to encourage innovation to education around 5G technology in the market. To this end, it will grant permits for 5G research and allow operators to conduct 5G trials via the 2600MHz, 3.5GHz and 26GHz bands without paying licence or spectrum fees.
A wide range of bands are under consideration of 5G usage, including the 700MHz, 2100MHz, 2600MHz, 3.5GHz, 4.5GHz and 26GHz bands. The 2100MHz band is currently used for 3G services and BICMA expects this to be the case “until 2025 and beyond”, while the 2600MHz band is also in use for fixed-wireless broadband and multichannel multipoint distribution services.
As a result, the 3.5GHz is seen by BICMA as the “current frontrunner 5G band”. The regulator noted that the 26GHz band is also a contender but would require “wider deployment of small cells” due to its propagation nature. The 4.5GHz band is currently in use, and so would not be available for 5G purposes until all current users had been migrated – which BICMA expects would take two to four years.