India’s space department to spoil telco 5G plans for 26 GHz mmwave band

India space launch 5G
India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III-M1 blasts off carrying Chandrayaan-2 from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, India, July 22, 2019. Indian Space Research Organisation/Handout via REUTERS

India’s Department of Space (DoS) is set to spoil Indian telecom operators’ 5G-related plans to develop certain 5G use cases in the country. The DoS has reportedly objected to spectrum allocation in the 26 Ghz millimetre wave band for 5G, arguing that deployment in this band will result in interference between satellite and 5G networks.

At the recent Asia-Pacific Telecommunity’s wireless group (AWG), the DoS has said that the 5G deployment in the 26Ghz band will also impact quality of satellite coverage.

According to a report by the Economic Times, the unavailability of spectrum in the 26 Ghz band will increase the overall 5G network deployment costs. Experts told the publication that in the absence of this spectrum will also stop India to leverage the global 5G devices ecosystem.

The development comes days after the meeting between the APT-ITU and United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia & the Pacific (UNESCAP) over 5G deployment plans in the region, including India.

The Department of Space (DoS) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) had last year refused to even partially vacate the 28GHz band, citing critical space operations. Isro had also refused to vacate the 25 MHz block in the 3300-3600 MHz band, which the telecom regulator, Trai, recommended for 5G services.

Notably, India has already deferred 5G spectrum auction to sometime in 2021 due to the financial health of telecom operators like Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, and an underdeveloped local ecosystem around the 5G technology. 

It is expected that India’s telecom department will only auction spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 Ghz band or the mid-band for 5G next year. However, Indian telecom operators want the DoT to ensure that spectrum in both mid-band and mmwave is available during the auction next year.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is currently working on preparing for 4G spectrum auction, including spectrum in the 700 Mhz and 800 Mhz, which could be used for 5G services. However, it hasn’t finalised the date for 4G auction.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea, said that it plans to reach out to the Indian government to establish a consensus between both the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Department of Space (DoS).

“We are keen that interference and compatibility studies for co-existence of satellite and 5G services in India be undertaken, and request the government to coordinate this effort with the concerned ministries,” Dr S P Kochhar, director-general of the COAI was quoted as saying.

Countries like the US, China, South Korea and Japan are currently using the 26 GHz band for 5G deployment and are pushing the ecosystem around the band.

The Department of Space (DoS) has also rejected a proposal of India’s participation in a global study on the potential co-existence of 5G and satellite operations on the 26 Ghz band.

India’s telecom operators were pushing the government to participate in the global study on the potential co-existence of 5G and satellite operations on the 26 Ghz band. However, the Department of Space (DoS) has rejected a proposal of India’s participation in the AWG global study.

The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity’s wireless group (AWG) is currently developing reports to collect technical conditions for 5G deployments in 26 GHz and 28 GHz millimetre wave bands.

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