Indian operators still seeking clarity on 26 GHz band for 5G

Indian operators still seeking clarity on 26 GHz band for 5G

The latest in a series of reminders from Indian operators has been delivered to the country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) over the absence – so far – of the 26 GHz band in the long-awaited 5G spectrum auction process.

Pointing out that if mmWave bands like 26 GHz are not offered soon spectrum may get claimed by other government agencies, the operators, through the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), have asked the DoT to request the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to suggest a price for the band.

As Indian press reports point out, it has been eight months since the International Telecommunication Union finalised rules for global 5G deployment in the 26 GHz band, but the DoT has not, so far, sought pricing recommendations from the regulator for 26 GHz spectrum – or even let operators know whether this band will be available for 5G trials.

The interest in 26 GHz is partly because of its capacity: the higher the frequency, the greater the ability to support high data-transfer speeds, though range may be more limited than at lower frequencies.

In fact a DoT panel suggested in a draft report last year that some 26 GHz spectrum and 3.5 GHz spectrum should be offered for 5G network trials, but this suggestion doesn’t seem to have been followed up.

So far only spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band has been set aside for 5G and, in any case, ongoing delays in spectrum auctions, in part over whether Huawei and ZTE will be involved in 5G network deployment, have meant that there is still no date for the auction of 5G spectrum.

In any case, even if 26 GHz became part of the offering, operators have made it clear that the suggested base price for 5G spectrum in general is too high.

This activity comes only a couple of days after press reports that operator Reliance Jio has applied to DoT for 5G spectrum allocation for the field trials of its proposed 5G network in selected areas. 

This is interesting for two reasons. One is that Jio has requested spectrum that includes 26 GHz, about which a DoT decision is still awaited. The other is Reliance Industries’ bullish recent announcement that its telecommunications unit has created a made-in-India 5G solution.

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