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5G spectrum went unsold but telcos want more bands put up for auction

Even as telcos deferred from bidding for mm-wave spectrum in the 5G auctions which took place last week, Reliance Jio and Airtel have urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to put additional high frequency spectrum on auction.

During the consultation proceedings auction of Frequency Spectrum in 37-37.5 GHz, 37.5-40 GHz, and 42.5-43.5 GHz – the top two telcos maintained that further availability of 5G spectrum will aid in the proliferation of the 5G network. Vodafone Idea countered, pointing out that even with the availability of 26GHz spectrum 5G deployment is skeletal at best, and further spectrum available would not necessarily change much.

Even though the 10th spectrum auctions, which took place in the last week of June were considered to be India’s second 5G auctions- telcos chose to strategically buy spectrum to enhance their 4G coverage capabilities instead of buying spectrum in 5G bands- which were 26GHz and mid-band spectrum.

Mm-wave or 26GHz spectrum in particular allows telcos to provide high speed and high capacity 5G networks.

However due to the limited deployment of the network, telcos chose not to buy additional spectrum during the most recent auction. Bands in the following frequencies, “37-37.5 GHz, 37.5-40 GHz, and 42.5-43.5 GHz,” can also be considered to be mm-wave since they have the same characteristics as 26GHz of being high frequency bands.

Reliance told the regulator that the 40GHz band should be opened up for auction as the mm-wave band during the next auctions.

“In the context of the current proposal for auction, we submit that it is imperative that complete 40 GHz band is auctioned and there is no reason to keep the spectrum in 40- 42.5 GHz out of the scope of this auction,” it said.

Airtel further added, “The availability of these new bands which are also classified as mmWave spectrum, in addition to the 26 GHz band (which was auctioned in 2022), will enable the further expansion of 5G/FWA services in the country. In fact, both the major TSPs acquired the 26GHz band across all LSAs in the 2022 Auctions and are now at various stages of deployment.

Hence, it is important that these bands be put up for auction as soon as possible.”

Vodafone Idea countered however wants the regulator to take a more pragmatic approach of deferring the auction of the spectrum in these bands for the next few years, so that the device ecosystem for these bands develops in more global markets. The Hindu BusinessLine

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