Satellite companies urge India to not share 28 GHz band with telcos for 5G

28 GHz spectrum India
Image by Zeferli | Bigstockphoto

Global satellite communication companies and Indian telecom operators are at loggerheads over spectrum in the 28 GHz band for 5G services. 

Companies like Hughes Network Systems, Inmarsat and Viasat have reportedly urged the Department of Telecommunications not to allocate half of the 28 GHz spectrum to Indian telcos preparing their networks for 5G services. 

However, OneWeb said that it sees no conflict with telcos concerning the 28 GHz band. OneWeb, which plans to launch services in India by next year, is backed by Bharti Group, which also owns India’s second-largest telecom operator, Bharti Airtel. OneWeb reportedly plans to use 28 GHz spectrum only for gateway communications and use a separate 14 GHz (Ku) band for terminals. 

Satellite companies have claimed that the allocation of spectrum to telcos will impact their satellite-based data download speed and geographical reach. This is because they are currently using 27.5 GHz to 29.5 GHz to provide services. 

According to a report by the Economic Times, satellite companies asked the DoT secretary Anshu Prakash not to share more than 500MHz spectrum or  27.5-28 GHz in the millimetre wave (mmWave) band. 

India’s private telcos Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, have demanded half of the spectrum in the mmwave band for 5G services. They had written to the DoT to push the telecom regulator to quickly start a fresh consultation on pricing and quantum for 26 GHz, 28 GHz and 37 GHz bands in the upcoming 5G spectrum sale.

They had told the DoT that the unavailability of spectrum in mmwave bands such as 26 GHz and 28 GHz would increase the cost of 5G network deployment in India, making the high-speed internet service unaffordable to Indian consumers.

Hughes India’s chief technology officer, K Krishna, told the publication that the spectrum “can’t be suddenly taken away” as doing so will hurt satellite interests. 

During the meeting with the DoT, other satellite companies said the move would “rapidly reduce the serving capacity of the satellite system”, thereby impacting the quality of service to quality broadband services in India. 

Satcom Industry Association of India (SIA-India), which also met the DoT official and other companies, told the publication that the International Telecom Union (ITU) had twice rejected designating any portion of the 28 GHz band for 5G services. 

“…losing half of the 28 GHz spectrum to telcos are huge as most emerging satellite operators from Elon Musk’s SpaceX to Jeff Bezos’ Amazon are likely to use this band for running both their satellite gateways and terminals to deliver high-speed broadband,” the report said, citing experts.  

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