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Telecom Companies Oppose DoT’s Spectrum Proposal, Say Will Raise Cost By 16 Times

India’s phone companies have shot off a letter to telecom secretary Anshu Prakash, saying a proposal of the telecom department – suggested by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) – to slash the transmission power of mobile base stations operating in the coveted 26 GHz spectrum band will jack up 5G deployment costs by at least 16 times and make the ultra-fast wireless broadband service unaffordable in the country.

Spectrum regulators at the International Telecom Union (ITU) are set to finalise later this month the rules around operating 5G networks globally, including in India, at the ongoing World Radio Communications-2019 conference in Egypt.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm – has called on the government to scrap the proposal and take suitable steps to ensure the Indian delegation participating at WRC-2019 supports the commercial deployment of 5G mobile services in the 26 GHz band – considered most efficient worldwide for 5G — since the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) also has sufficient quantum of these premium airwaves.

“While a normal 5G base station transmits at 60 dbm (including the antenna gain), ISRO’s proposal will forcefully restrict the transmission power to 37 dbm, which will compel telcos to deploy 16 times the number of sites (read: base stations) to ensure same level of 5G coverage on the 26 GHz band,” COAI director general Rajan Mathews said in a letter to the telecom secretary, a copy of which was seen by ET. The radiated transmission power of base station antennae is measured in dbms.

Mathews said if DoT’s current proposal, backed by ISRO, “gets accepted at the WRC-2019, it will exponentially increase the cost of deploying 5G in India, increasing the service price to the end-consumer, making it unaffordable”.

Accordingly, the telecom industry body has coaxed Prakash “to direct the head of Indian delegation at WRC-2019 to support the 26 GHz band for 5G services as India has a whopping 3250 Mhz of airwaves in this premium band, as opposed to merely 175 units in the 3.5 GHz band” that the government plans to auction.

A BTS or base station is a critical element of any mobile network that sends and receives radio signals from any cellphone. Choking its transmission power, experts, said, would kill the 5G business case on the 26 GHz band, leaving India out of sync with global 5G deployments and advances, given that the US, Europe, South Korea, Africa and Latin America are all rolling out 5G on this core spectrum band.

The national space agency though has convinced DoT to propose a sharp cut in the transmission power of mobile base stations operating on this band, as it needs a small slug of 26 GHz spectrum for satellite services and wants zero interference from 5G mobile networks in future.

The DoT has earmarked spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band for 5G services but the industry wants it to also auction spectrum in the 26 GHz core 5G band. The Digital Communications Commission has yet to take a call on the auction details.―Gadgets Now

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