India loses ‘space economy’ benefits if 5G telcos get 28-GHz band: Viasat

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Viasat has strongly advised India to avoid allocating spectrum in the 28-GHz band for 5G services, saying that the country may not be able to benefit from the space economy if there is no millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum available for satcom services.

The American satellite company said that India may lose $184.6 billion in terms of economic value by 2030 if the 28-GHz spectrum band is auctioned for 5G.

“MmWave is not being used and processed globally. It is hard to understand why India is focusing on it when the rest of the world is going in a different direction…we are concerned that India may not be able to benefit from the space economy if there is no spectrum for satcom,” Cristian Gomez, senior director-government & regulatory affairs (Asia Pacific) at Viasat was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

Viasat, which is in the process of buying Inmarsat, will soon submit its recommendations to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), and will also approach the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

“We hope DoT is open to listen and remains neutral on the matter,” he added.

Indian telcos have argued that no spectrum should be allocated to non-telecom companies through the administrative route, and advocated for auctions for all kinds of spectrum to ensure “a level playing field”.

However, satellite players such as Inmarsat, Telesat, Hughes and OneWeb have been seeking spectrum in the 28-GHz band through the administrative route.

Viasat’s Gomez said the 26-GHz band offers enough spectrum to accommodate the requirement of all Indian telecom operators. Telcos had recently asked the government to provide a minimum of 400 MHz per telco in both bands.

“Telecom operators will have enough spectrum to accommodate the 5G mobile services in a separate spectrum in 26 GHz, which is harmonised by ITU WRC-19,” he added. “26 GHz offers 3.2 GHz to accommodate all telcos.”

He also urged the Indian government to follow the EU region along with countries like Australia and China who have protected spectrum in the 28-Ghz band for satellite communications services.

“China is the world leader in 5G… if they decided to give 26 GHz for 5G then it gives a signal. Brazil is moving in this direction after the failed auction,” Gomez told the publication, adding countries that prioritise mmWave have now shifted their focus due to the high capital expenditure or capex.

“The key reason is 5G is expensive to deploy and requires new gear especially in mmWave. You will need millions of new towers… deploying a national 5G network using mmWave is not realistic while, on the other hand, lower frequency needs lesser towers,” Gomez added.

The company said that it aims to offer satcom services in India, Africa and Asia-Pacific regions through its Viasat 3 geostationary satellites.

In India, Bharti-backed OneWeb and Elon Musk’s Starlink are looking to start their satellite communications or satcom services by the second half of 2022. Both companies will low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to offer their services.

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