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Indian telcos demand 6GHz spectrum to reduce 5G network deployment cost

Indian telcos up the ante for 6GHz spectrum to economically provide better 5G network while ensuring that it is not allocated to any other government department.

Gagandeep Kaur

April 11, 2023

3 Min Read
Indian telcos demand 6GHz spectrum to reduce 5G network deployment cost

The Indian service providers are demanding at least 1,200MHz of 6GHz frequency spectrum to bring down expenses related to setting up a 5G network.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, has written to the Telecom Secretary urging the Government to allocate 1,200MHz of the midband spectrum to the telcos. The association argues that this spectrum has a wider range, thus allowing the telcos to cost-effectively cover a greater distance with the same infrastructure.

The demand is partly driven by the recently introduced Government's vision document on 6G, which recommends delicensing a part of the 6GHz spectrum for WiFi. As of now, the 6GHz spectrum is being used by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

Figure 1: The 6GHz spectrum could make India's 5G rollout cheaper and easier. (Source: Philipp Dimitri / Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo) The 6GHz spectrum could make India's 5G rollout cheaper and easier.
(Source: Philipp Dimitri / Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

"Mid-bands like 6 GHz provide a balance of wide coverage and capacity which is critical to the rapid and cost-efficient deployments of 5G mobile networks in India and also meets the exponentially increasing data demands that too at affordable terms," says SP Kochhar, Director General, COAI, in a letter to Telecom Secretary K Rajaraman.

A recent report by GSMA says that India can save as much as $10 billion annually by using 6GHz spectrum to bring down the cost of deploying a 5G network.

Cutting costs

The unavailability of the 6GHz spectrum will increase the cost of setting up networks by as much as 60% for telcos since they would need to deploy a greater number of towers to cover the same distance. It will also negatively impact speed. Further, this spectrum has emerged as a global standard for 5G and 5.5G, and is likely to play a crucial role in the upcoming 6G networks as well.

As of now, only 720MHz of 6GHz spectrum is available in India, which COAI says is not enough to provide a quality experience to the end users. This spectrum was not available in the auctions conducted last year. The Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) wing of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is evaluating which sector to allocate spectrum to.

"6GHz is the only mid-band spectrum where a contiguous bandwidth to the order of 300-400MHz per TSP [Telecom Service Provider] is possible to make it available for the evolving demands towards 2030," says the letter sent by COAI.

India's top two service providers, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, are in the middle of deploying 5G networks across the country. Jio's standalone 5G network is already covering 406 towns and cities and the company plans to ensure nationwide coverage by the end of this year. Airtel's non-standalone 5G network, meanwhile, is present in more than 500 cities and towns and the company hopes to provide coverage by March 2024.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Gagandeep Kaur

Contributing Editor

With more than a decade of experience, Gagandeep Kaur Sodhi has worked for the most prominent Indian communications industry publications including Dataquest, Business Standard, The Times of India, and Voice&Data, as well as for Light Reading. Delhi-based Kaur, who has knowledge of and covers a broad range of telecom industry developments, regularly interacts with the senior management of companies in India's telecom sector and has been directly responsible for delegate and speaker acquisition for prominent events such as Mobile Broadband Summit, 4G World India, and Next Generation Packet Transport Network.

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