Telecom lobbies team up to seek reservation of airwaves for 5G

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Representatives of leading mobile phone and broadband services providers are set to shortly approach a key inter-ministerial panel to persuade Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to reserve efficient sub-1GHz spectrum in the 614-698 MHz frequency band for commercial 5G services.

Two persons aware of the matter told ET that three leading telecom lobby groups — the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), London-based GSMA and Broadband India Forum (BIF) — have teamed up to back reservation of airwaves in the 614-698 MHz frequency band for super-fast 5G mobile broadband networks. The ITU is scheduled to hold a meeting next month in the United States, where senior officials of the department of telecom will participate to articulate India’s position on preferred 5G spectrum bands in the run-up to the next spectrum sale where 5G airwaves are proposed to be auctioned.

The Geneva-based agency deals in spectrum management issues globally. It is a multinational collective effort between governments and private companies to suggest new telecom technologies and standards. Should ITU back India’s proposal, device makers are expected to consider mass production of 5G phones that will operate on the cost-efficient 614-698 MHz band.

In separate letters, COAI, GSMA and BIF will apprise the inter-ministerial group on the “importance of earmarking super-efficient sub-1GHz spectrum for 5G services since airwaves in the 614-698 MHz range have superior propagation features and are exceptionally well suited for extensive and affordable fast mobile broadband coverage”, especially in the rural areas, said one of persons, who did not wish to be identified.

The inter-ministerial panel is headed by a senior official of the Telecom Engineering Centre, the technical wing of the department of telecom, and includes senior representatives from the ministries of defence, telecom, and information and broadcasting, along with the department of space.

At present, these airwaves being sought by telcos for 5G services are with the broadcasting sector, with terrestrial broadcaster Doordarshan being the principal holder of such TV broadcasting spectrum in the 470-698 MHz range.

Accordingly, the three telecom lobby bodies are expected to cite the telecom regulator’s January 2017 recommendations on digital terrestrial broadcasting (DTB), where it said, “DTB should be limited and this important spectrum resource should not be kept blocked (for broadcasters alone) but must be used efficiently for international mobile telecommunications (IMT)”.

The COAI represents India’s biggest telcos including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm, among others. UK-based GSMA, in turn, represents global mobile operators worldwide while the BIF counts Facebook, Google, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Hughes, Huawei, Ericsson, Intelsat and Intel among its members.

Separately, the COAI and GSMA will also urge the inter-ministerial panel to coax the ITU to earmark airwaves in the 3300-3600 MHz frequency band for international mobile telecommunication services, including 5G.

Other News