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With DoT insistent, MIB may have to intervene on C-band allocation for 5G-6G

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B ministry) may launch its review of the government’s plan to potentially reserve the crucial C-band of radio frequencies for 5G and 6G telecommunication (telecom) use, said officials.

While the incumbent broadcasting operators have warned that the plan will leave “precious little spectrum” for broadcasting services, telecom service providers (TSPs) have pressed hard for getting access to the C-band.

In multiple letters to the I&B ministry over the past month, the News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) has said the industry would be left with precious little spectrum for broadcasting services if the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) further allocates the scant C-band for 5G.

While deciding on the usage of radio frequencies is the sole purview of DoT, the NBDA has requested the I&B ministry to intervene.

As a result, the I&B ministry is in the process of undertaking an independent review on the matter, said several people in the know.

“Administrative decisions on the allocation of spectrum, its use, and the sharing of spectrum by multiple sectors is usually discussed at interministerial fora but the unyielding stance of the industry on all sides has led to this,” said an official.

This will be the first time such a review is undertaken by the I&B ministry independently, he added.

The ministry had earlier flagged the issue of 5G spectrum disrupting broadcast services. DoT is currently in the process of deciding which sector to reserve the C-band spectrum for. A panel formed under the Wireless Planning and Coordination wing of DoT is considering the issue.

Currently, Indian TSPs are using the n78 (3300-3800 megahertz, or MHz) part of the band for 5G services. But sources said DoT is considering vacating the spectrum from broadcasters or satellite users in the 3670-4000 MHz part of the band as well.

Whose band is it?
One portion of the C-band — from 3.7 gigahertz (GHz) to 4.2 GHz — has been utilised by broadcasters and multi-system operators for providing cable and satellite services for over two decades.

Further 5G activity in the C-band will impact thousands of cable television headends across the country, the broadcasting industry has said.

Another part, especially from 3.3 GHz to 3.6 GHz, is globally sought after by the telecom industry. This ‘mid-band’ spectrum is extremely important for new 5G technology due to the capacity and coverage it offers and the ecosystem developed around it.

According to the global apex body for mobile operators GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association), the spectrum band represents “a balancing point between coverage and capacity that provides the perfect environment for the earliest 5G connectivity”.

Between these two parts of the band is the separation or ‘guard band’ of 100 MHz to preclude the possibility of any interference.

The C-band hit headlines in December last year after DoT had asked Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio to not install 5G base stations within a 2.1-kilometre range of Indian airports, citing potential interference for the radio (radar) altimeters used on aircraft. During take-off/touchdown and to help avoid crashing into mountains, pilots depend entirely on the key instrument. Business Standard

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