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Telcos seek adequate and affordable 5G spectrum supply across bands

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New Delhi: Telecom industry leaders called on the government to ensure adequate supply of 5G airwaves across a blend of bands at affordable rates and also underlined the need for a vibrant innovation ecosystem around the next-generation fast broadband technology so that India can go 5G quickly.

Speaking at ET Telecom 5G Congress, 2021 held virtually on Thursday, the executives urged the government to hasten 5G field trials to pave the way for commercial deployments of the fast mobile broadband technology. They also reiterated their call for early cuts in the hefty telecom levies to ease continuing financial stress in the debt-laden telecom sector.

The executives were speaking days ahead of the upcoming spectrum sale, starting March 1, where no 5G airwaves will be auctioned.

Bharti

chief executive Gopal Vittal underlined the need for “abundant 5G spectrum (availability) at the lowest possible cost” and sought greater clarity from the government about the country’s spectrum road map. He said “ultimately, where you want the money to go isn’t in rolling out networks, but (in) building the spine that the country needs”.

Reliance Jio Infocomm president Mathew Oommen backed the view, saying telcos “need access to a least 100 units per operator (of 5G airwaves) in the 3.5 GHz band and, hopefully, 800 units of millimetre waves per operator, and if not, at least 400 units” and “at least two times 20 units (40 units) of sub-6 GHz spectrum per carrier”.

Vodafone Idea CEO Ravinder Takkar said a recent report of a parliamentary panel on IT had underscored “the need for rapid progress on 5G trials and deployment of India-specific use cases”, besides addressing critical issues such as “the low-level of fiberisation” of base stations and the need for uniform right of way (RoW) rules to ensure meaningful 5G deployments.

All three telcos have said their networks are 5G-ready. But the government has yet to hold trials for local 5G use cases and provide any clarity on the timing of India’s maiden sale of spectrum supporting the next-gen technology.

Jio’s Oommen underlined the need for “rationalisation of the long-pending levies that the telecom industry is burdened with”.

The executives also urged the government to make available airwaves in the E and V bands, considered ideal for 5G and creating a strong backhaul.

“Access to the E and V bands (spectrum) will allow operators to deploy backhaul at a fraction of the cost without digging or without destroying the environment,” said Bharti Airtel’s Vittal.

E and V band airwaves are critical for telcos as they can be used as backhaul to connect mobile phones in the absence of fibre connectivity. Backhaul has to do with connecting a mobile network core to nodes and then onto towers, to transmit data.

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