The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has sought clarity on the timeline of 5G spectrum auction as they could have a clear roadmap on when to start the field trials to test the technology and roll out services. The association represents all major telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and VI (Vodafone Idea).
Even global tech giants like Facebook and Google were also present in the meeting, and each stakeholder was given 3-4 minutes to make their presentations. Though issues related to 5G were central to the meeting, telecom operators also raised several other concerns related to their business operations in India.
In a meeting with the department of telecommunications (DoT), the operators also sought globally harmonised bands to be identified for 5G services in the country to enhance interoperability between the networks. It urged the government to immediately auction the E and V spectrum bands, which are ideal for 5G services.
The association noted that if E and V bands were delicenced or administratively allocated, the airwaves could be used as access spectrum by unlicensed companies as well, making it difficult for licenced telecom operators to expand the backend infrastructure. Moreover, delicencing of these bands would lead to huge losses for the government, COAI added.
They also asked the department to update the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP)-2018, a central policy that defines the roadmap for future spectrum usage by all national authorities, with new spectrum bands such as 26GHz that have been identified for 5G deployment by the International Telecom Union.
According to a Mint report, the telecom operators also urged the government to impose lower taxes and levies to reduce the stress on their balance sheets. This has been a long-standing concern for the telecom companies operating in India. “If the spectrum is acquired through auction, then there should not be any usage charge for the spectrum as the market-determined price is already paid,” S.P. Kochhar, director-general of COAI.
The DoT did not make any remark on the issues flagged in the meeting.
The fifth generation network was expected to be launched in India by 2020, but while devices are available, the telecom services are far from ready. Reliance Jio reached out to DoT last year seeking 5G spectrum despite there being no official announcement for an auction. The Mukesh Ambani-led company has applied for 800 megahertz (MHz) spectrum each in both the millimeters — 26 gigahertz (GHz) and 24 GHz — wave mmWave band as well as 100 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band for field trials in few metro cities.
Besides faster speeds, 5G offers low latency and a more stable network across connections. It is said to offer download speeds of up to 1Gbps, which is at least 100 times the existing data speeds. It will allow users to download even HD versions in seconds.