On 30 November, when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai, released its consultation paper on the looming 5G spectrum auctions, spectrum auctions, The Ken For years, India’s cash-strapped telcos have been bullish on 5G deployment. But with high spectrum prices and home-grown tech falling short, rivals are finding common cause in delaying the expensive transition to the new generation of mobile networks Read more it seemed like India’s transition to 5G telecom networks had finally entered its end game. Stakeholders had to provide their inputs by 28 December, with counter-comments to be submitted by 11 January. It is expected that Trai would finally submit its recommendations to the Department of Telecom by March, finally clearing clearing Economic Times 5G spectrum auctions may be delayed to July next year Read more the way for the auction to take place.

Despite Trai setting the ball rolling though, the Indian government will likely miss its self-imposed deadline for spectrum auctions. Though the government was hoping to conduct the auctions by the first half of 2022—adding another feather to its cap before India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations in August—a number of hurdles remain to be overcome.

While the fiercely-debated pricing of spectrum will be finalised once DoT receives Trai’s recommendations, many of the spectrum bands under consideration for the 5G auction are occupied. In the mid-band— the premium band for 5G services—the 3.3-3.4GHz and 3.6-3.625GHz blocks are currently used for mission critical defence and disaster communications. In the millimetre band, the 27.5-28.5GHz block is occupied by satellite operators. Broadcasters will likely be the other group affected, as spectrum bands they currently use could be affected by 5G signals.

Some of these tenancy troubles are a result of India increasing the range of spectrum for 5G beyond the initial limits prescribed by the International Telecommunication Union International Telecommunication Union International Telecommunication Union The UN body that deals with information and communication technologies (ITU). The original ranges for mid-band and millimeter band spectrum, for instance, were 3.3-3.6GHz and 24.2-27.5 GHz, respectively. The former was extended by 70MHz to 3.67GHz, while the latter was extended to 28.5GHz.

These limits were ostensibly broadened at the insistence of telecom tech vendors, which have developed chipsets and equipment supporting the extended spectrum bands. This tech has already been deployed in countries such as the US and Japan, which have also extended their spectrum bands. Equipment vendors are lobbying regulators across the world to follow suit in order to achieve economies of scale.

AUTHOR

Pratap Vikram Singh

Pratap is based out of Delhi and covers policy and myriad intersections with the other sectors, most notably technology. He has worked with Governance Now for seven years, reporting on technology, telecom policy, and the social sector.

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