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Asia Preparatory meeting for the UN Spectrum conference rejects China proposal for allocation of 6GHz band for mobile services at WRC-23

Every 4 years, the UN agency for telecommunications, the International Telecom Union (ITU) organizes a global conference called “World Radio Conference” (WRC-23) that will be held in Dubai from 20 November to 15 December 2023 to update the Radio Regulations which is an international legal treaty on the use of Radio spectrum. The 6th Meeting of the Asian Conference Preparatory Group for WRC-23, currently meeting in Brisbane, Australia to finalize the Asian Common Proposals (PACPs) for WRC-23 has not agreed not to a proposal by China to open the 6 GHz band for 5G that will lead to interference to Indian satellite systems as well as block Indian innovation and telecom exports and support Chinese telecom companies exports to Europe, middle east and African (EMEA) countries. China proposal was to block WiFi without any studies. WiFi in 6 GHz band would provide Indian innovators and manufacturers with new opportunities in hardware and software exports.

China was pushing to allocate the 6 GHz band for mobile services in the EMEA and some Asian countries at WRC-23 to further promote their export of telecom gear to this territory. Most countries in the world have already allocated the Lower 6GHz (5925-6425 MHz) band for WiFi, and many developed countries including USA (and the QUAD) have also allocated the upper GHz band for Wi-Fi.

Mr. Bharat Bhatia, President IAFI, who is attending the conference in Brisbane thanked the heads Indian delegation, Mr. Shivendu Gupta, Mr. Alava and Mr. Patnaik of DOT for supporting the Indian official position and achieving a favorable decision.

The ITU Radio Regulations, which contain the global spectrum rules currently do not permit the use of the upper 6 GHz spectrum band for the purpose of 5G mobile telecom services. WRC-23 conference later this year is expected to consider the upper part of 6GHz band for 5G in Europe, middle east and African (EMEA) countries – known as ITU Region 1. The proposal for the Asia Pacific -ITU Region 3 – was earlier rejected by the previous WRC-19 at the instance of India due to likely negative impact on our satellite services but China had asked for a relook into that decision to open that band for mobile services in China and other friendly countries in our region.

Delicensing of the lower 6GHz band would enable roll out of AR/VR/MR devices and new applications & services in the areas of healthcare, education, etc. all of which are running on Wi-fi 6E. Public WiFi, which is a national priority, will further enable delicensing of the 6 GHz band to meet the countries’ socio-economic needs.

Wi-Fi Data traffic has been growing at a much faster rate with the rollout of 5G. This has been the case with each successive cellular generation from 2G onwards. Demand for Wi-Fi will only continue to grow with increased fiber deployments and cellular generations. Next generation use cases will require much faster data to enable immersive experiences such as robotic surgeries, Industrial automation, AR/VR. This requires expansive computational resources and connectivity- several times faster than 5G. Such high speed cannot be delivered by a wide-area networks such as IMT. Instead, local-area, short range communications such as the next generation Wi-Fi technologies designed for extremely high throughput and spectral reuse is the only solution. Wi-Fi 6E has the capabilities required for advanced use cases as it delivers faster speed, lower latency, higher efficiency, and higher density. It is a success already and by 2024 there will be billions of devices installed globally, able to operate from 5.925 to 7.125 GHz, from over 1.5 million Wi-Fi 6E access points and 350 million Wi-Fi 6E devices in 2022. 6 GHz frequency band is uniquely suited to meet growing demand for Wi-Fi, connectivity. There is no alternative spectrum now or in the future.

Licensed mobile networks in 6 GHz frequency band are not feasible as global or even regional spectrum harmonization cannot be achieved in this band. This is because most countries in the world have already opted for Wi-Fi in this band. Countries that have opened the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi include USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, European Union, Norway, Switzerland, UK, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, UAE Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Chile, European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, Jordan, Kenya, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom.

Due to the overwhelming use of this band by WiFi, market fragmentation does not allow economies of scale necessary for a viable IMT ecosystem in 6 GHz. Wi-Fi 6E in 6 GHz band has expanded significantly around the world since 2020. Further Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 8 that enables enhanced VR/AR/XR, Industrial IoT, automotive, telepresence, immersive 3-D will depend on the 6 GHz access, and 320 MHz channels will be optimized for demanding emerging use cases.

License exempt use of 6 GHz will open new opportunities for innovators and manufacturers to develop products and technologies and increase opportunities for smart home and industrial products being manufactured in India for export markets. 6 GHz band is currently extensively used by satellites for up linking of broadcasting channels as well as by VSAT for providing data connectivity. Therefore, it will not be possible to use this band for licensed mobile operators. However, as various studies have shown, this band could be shared by indoor-only low-power Wi-fi routers. Since the band cannot be auctioned, delicensing it for Low Power indoor use will not cause any revenue loss to the Government. On the other hand, this move will add huge economic benefit to the economy and help increase the GDP. In addition, this move will also support, Atamnirbhar India as most of the Wi-Fi routers are fully made in the country.

CT Bureau

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