US tech giants urge India to release new spectrum for Wi-Fi, enterprise

new spectrum India Wi-Fi 6
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American technology giants Cisco and Intel have asked India to open up spectrum in the 6 GHz and 60 GHz bands to drive adoption of Wi-Fi 6 in the country. Google, Facebook and Microsoft, through their representative body the Broadband India Forum (BIF), have also raised a similar demand at a key meeting on spectrum roadmap.

These tech majors have said that spectrum in the 6GHz band (5925-7125MHz) will drive adoption of broadband services based on Wi-Fi 6, which coupled with 5G will also unlock various critical Internet of Things (IoT) and industry 4.0 use cases for enterprises.

“5G and Wi-Fi 6 are complementary. Both have a solid evolution path for the next decade. We are a strong player in this ecosystem, and research is being done in Bangalore. It is critical to provide both licenses, and unlicensed spectrum for greater societal benefits,” chipmaker Intel’s representative said at the spectrum meeting with India’s Department of Telecommunications.

Through separate presentations, Intel and BIF urged the Indian authorities to release spectrum in the 57-71 GHz bands. “The 60GHz band needs to be released through the administrative route for short-range device applications based on ITU and ETSI standards and specialised Wi-Fi,” BIF representative said at the meeting.

“A large number of rural broadband customers are heavily dependent on video and high data usage. Mobile networks cannot guarantee essential speeds and need to be supported by both captive and Public Wi-Fi to enable acceptable quality of service and new innovative services,” the BIF representative said.

Cisco, on the other hand, also asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to release spectrum in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band that consists of a total 150 MHz within the 3500 MHz spectrum band that stretches between the 3550-3700 MHz (or 3.55-3.7GHz). It also urged the government officials to release spectrum in 24-28 GHz bands for industry 4.0 use cases.

Rohit Kaw, Director, Systems Engineering – Service Provider, Cisco India said that enterprises and government could use the CBRS band in 3.5 GHz bands whereas higher bands like 24-28 GHz will enable new use cases for the private sector, especially vertical industries.

Notably, the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had said last year that the US was ready to work with India to harness the benefits of the powerful 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi and towards global harmonisation of this spectrum. “ Ultimately, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will complement each other nicely and form a powerful 1-2 punch of licensed and unlicensed innovation,” he had then said at an industry event.

These tech companies, through BIF, again reiterated their demand for spectrum in E and V bands.

Indian telcos, however, countered tech companies’ demands and said that the country already has sufficient unlicensed spectrum which should be used first. They also said any move to delicense spectrum in E and V bands would enable these global tech giants to offer 5G-like speeds at a fraction of the cost, destroying the business case for 5G mobile broadband services in India.

Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio unanimously urged India’s telecom department to protect their spectrum-related investments. They added that de-licensing E & V bands would put their billions of dollars of investments in spectrum resources at risk.

The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) along with Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Samsung urged India to auction 5G spectrum in the low, mid and high bands in 2021.

A Samsung representative said there is a strong need for 5G spectrum availability in India. Both Samsung and Qualcomm urged India to harmonise its spectrum allocation plan with the WRC-19 bands quickly.

India will hold a 4G auction in March but is yet to develop a plan on a 5G auction that is expected later this year.

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