The Cellular Operators Association of India has asked the government for access to the lucrative 6GHz spectrum range, arguing that India's 5G rollout process will be more expensive and drawn out without it.
COAI, which represents the three private telecom service providers (TSPs), on Tuesday stressed that 6GHz is the last remaining mid-band spectrum range where city wide coverage can be provided with mobile networks.
It said the current range of spectrum provided to TSPs is not available for meeting the 5G requirements of the country. It added that licensed 6 GHz is ideal for commercial success and deployment of 5G New Radio, the global standard for a unified 5G wireless air interface and 5.5G, the next level in the current 5G network, along with 6G.
The government has till now reserved the 6GHz spectrum range and it was not available in the last round of 5G auctions.
The industry body has made an official submission to the government to this effect. "The government has obviously seen some merit in our argument. A few months back, an internal committee had been set up by the Department of Telecommunications to look into the matter. It will submit a report on the issue," COAI Director General S P Kochhar said.
He said without 6GHz bands, TSPs would need to erect more towers and radios in urban areas. "This densification of towers would push up the cost of creating 5G networks and the timeline of deployment. On the user end, the final quality of the connections will suffer," Kocchar said.
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The Director General also hinted that 5G tariffs may also go up since TSPs would need to recover the much higher expenditure made for creating 5G infrastructure and the power consumption due to large scale tower densification would negatively impact the commitments made by India in reducing the country’s carbon reduction and related green objectives.
According to COAI's calculations, 5G download speeds would be reduced to 50 percent of their optimal levels if the government allocates less spectrum than what is needed in the 6 GHz band.
Focus on 6GHz
For higher advanced tech like 5G and 6G, spectrum requirements shift to higher bands like millimeter wave which have greater capacities to carry data, but lack coverage reach since they can be effectively transmitted over a smaller range. Mid-bands like 6 GHz provide a balance of wide coverage and capacity - critical to rapid and cost-efficient deployments of 5G mobile networks & meet the exponentially increasing data demands at affordable terms.
Any shortage of 6 GHz spectrum would compel TSPs to densify networks to meet IMT-2020 performance requirement for 5G. While COAI has argued limited supply from existing identified bands makes 6 GHz much more important for 5G evolution, it is batting for the opening up of the entire mid band.
Additional 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum would be required to meet the IMT-2020 user-experienced data rates of 100 Mbit/s on the downlink and 50 Mbit/s on the uplink in high density cities, it said.
International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 (IMT-2020 Standard) are the mandated requirements issued by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2015 for 5G networks, devices and services.
COAI has cautioned the government against delicensing any part of this entire band and must be avoided. "The 6GHz band is greenfield, and not being used by anyone. It should be earmarked for mobile services," he said.
A fight may be brewing between TSPs and fixed line broadband (wi-fi) providers, who are also known to be eying the band, people in the know said.
COAI has argued the usage of public Wi-Fi networks has fallen considerably in recent years due to easily available and consistent services of 4G and going forward, 5G tech. "Wi-Fi experience depends highly on available last-mile and provisioning access spectrum will not guarantee good end user experience. As it is, more than 95 percent of user’s access the internet using mobile broadband in India," Kocchar said.
5G will contribute more than 50 percent of subscribers by 2030 globally and is expected to have a higher share in India. Advanced use cases such as process automation or collaborative robotics in manufacturing will put additional demand for 5G spectrum for coverage and capacity.
2x higher power consumption in cities
4x higher network costs for telcos due to tower densification
50% reduction in download speeds if less than necessary spectrum allocated