Telecom gear vendors, London trade group raise pitch in spectrum fight


NEW DELHI: Telecom gear vendors and the London-headquartered trade group GSM Association have said that unavailability or limited availability of the 26 GHz spectrum may dampen India’s efforts to drive additional GDP growth in the medium to long-term as various 5G use cases, including for industries and enterprises, won’t work well in the country without the coveted band.

They said the proposal of the Department of Telecom (DoT), at the behest of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to slash the transmission capability of mobile base stations operating in the band, if accepted, will hurt India’s 5G ambitions. ISRO has said that if the transmission capability is not slashed, telecom signals will interfere with its satellites.

“The case of the India proposal from the space industry is not very different from the European situation. They are also advocating stringent limit…(but) any more reduction in power will affect 5G deployments, making it expensive to deploy and will also make it difficult to be attained by consumers,” Cristian Gomez, director of spectrum policy and regulatory affairs at GSMA, told ET. Europe and Russia are also pushing for similar stringent norms as ISRO. But, as per GSMA’s estimates, the 26 GHz or millimetre wavebased 5G will account for $212 billion of GDP growth in APAC by 2034. Of this, South Asia and Southeast Asia will account for $45 billion of GDP growth, most of it generated by India.

The DoT proposal, along with other issues, is being discussed at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019, which opened in Egypt on October 28. Gomez said the proposal has the potential to affect 5G deployments, and thus needs to be discussed with proper facts at the ongoing WRC-19. “Neighbouring countries also need to agree. India may have sent a proposal, but the spectrum is an internationally regulated resource, hence the discussion will need inputs from all other countries,” she said.

ISRO wants a small chunk of about 10% of the 26 GHz spectrum band for satellite services and wants zero interference from 5G mobile networks using the same airwaves in the future. It wants the power level of 5G base stations in this band to be reduced to 0.5 watts from the conventional power level of 40 watts. “A large number of countries are in favour of less stringent technical conditions and to protect adjacent satellite services and to make sure IMT 2020 or 5G in 26 GHz is economically viable,” Gomez said, adding that different regions and countries have done studies which show that coexistence of 5G and weather sensing is possible with reasonable protection conditions.

Bharti Airtel CEO for India and South Asia, Gopal Vittal, had earlier underlined the importance of the millimetre-wave, saying the global standard deployment would move towards it as well as 3.5Ghz. “These are common frequency bands and these should ideally be used for India,” he had said. India has earmarked 3.3 GHz to 3.6 GHz bands for 5G deployments. “It is crucial that the millimetrewave spectrum is available in reasonable condition and is not much limited so that it remains economically viable to deploy. 26 GHz is something which we expect to have global harmonisation in WRC,” Ulrich Dropmann, head of standardisation, Bell Labs CTO, Nokia, told ET.


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