Satcom body tells Indian regulators telcos don’t need 28-GHz band for 5G

28-GHz band 5G satellite
Image by sasha85ru | Bigstockphoto

The Indian Space Association (ISpA) says that allocation of spectrum in the 28-GHz band for satellite-based broadband services will not impact 5G roll out plans by telecom operators because they can use other millimeter-wave bands.

The recently constituted ISpA – a prominent satcom representative body that represents Bharti-backed OneWeb, Tata’s Nelco, Ananth Technologies and MapmyIndia – says that the 28-Ghz band has already been allocated for satellite-driven broadband communications in various countries such as Australia, China and the European Union. Meanwhile, there are other nearby millimeter-wave bands that mobile operators can use for 5G.

“We are emphasising that in 24-27.5 Ghz band, there is adequate capacity for four major mobile incumbents in India – they will each get 800 MHz for 5G which is adequate capacity, and hence retaining 27.5 to 28.5 with space will not in any way inhibit the propagation of 5G,” Lt. Gen (retd) AK Bhatt, ISpA’s director-general, was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

Earlier, US-based satellite company Viasat told Indian authorities that the 26-GHz band offers enough spectrum to accommodate the requirement of all Indian telecom operators.

OneWeb and Starlink are looking to start their satellite communications services by the second half of 2022 using low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to offer their services, which Bhatt will give a much needed push to the country’s satellite sector.

“We are quite optimistic that by the middle of this year, activities on the ground would start happening,” he said, adding that the spacecom policy is in a “very advanced stage” of consultation within the government.

Bhatt said that “a wide range of proposals” were recommended by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Center (IN-SPACe), which are under active consideration.

In a submission to telecom regulator TRAI, ISpA recommended that the nationwide allocation of spectrum in the 27.5-28.5GHz band for 5G be avoided, as such a move would “unnecessarily sterilise valuable spectrum in areas where 5G will never be deployed using these frequencies.”

Indian telecom operators are at loggerheads with satellite companies over the allotment of spectrum in the 28-Ghz band.

Inmarsat, Telesat, Hughes and OneWeb among others have been seeking 28-GHz spectrum through the administrative route. But Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea have argued that no spectrum should be allocated to non-telecom companies through this route, and advocate auctions for all spectrum to ensure a “level playing field”.

Reliance Jio told TRAI that the auction of spectrum for satellite broadband services is rapidly gaining ground globally, with Brazil having already done so and Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Thailand set to follow suit quickly.

Telecom operators have also urged TRAI and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to ensure each telco receives 400 MHz in millimeter-wave bands.

ISpA also said that satellite-based high speed broadband will spur fast-paced economic activity in India. Viasat recently claimed that India may lose $184.6 billion in terms of economic value by 2030 if the 28-Ghz band is auctioned for 5G.

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