"However, the provision of 5G services in such existing multiple spectrum bands can only happen with the availability of handsets if the minimum features to supports 5G services are ensured,” the company is believed to have told DoT.
With the government allotting 5G spectrum to telecom operators for conducting trials, Bharti Airtel has written to the department of telecommunications (DoT) to bring about guidelines stipulating that any new 5G handset launched or sold in India must have the necessary features to support all existing bands in India for 5G.
It is understood to have highlighted that since around 50% of smartphone users in India change or upgrade their handsets at least after two years of usage, any further delay in creating the much needed device ecosystem would hamper India’s ambition to be a leader in 5G technology.
The company has also highlighted in its communication that the devices should support dynamic spectrum sharing while the dual SIM handsets should have 2G, 4G and 5G support on both slots.
The context of Bharti writing to DoT on uniform guidelines is that currently most of the handsets launched by the device manufacturers in India for 5G support 3.5 GHz only, whereas 5G services can be provided using multiple existing bands and new radio interface.
For instance, in the recently concluded spectrum auction, operators have acquired spectrum in multiple bands considering the future use of these bands to launch 5G services. For example, 2100 MHz, initially used by the operators to provide 3G services, is now being used to offer 4G LTE and has been adopted to provide 5G in various parts of the world.
“However, the provision of 5G services in such existing multiple spectrum bands can only happen with the availability of handsets if the minimum features to supports 5G services are ensured,” the company is believed to have told DoT.
In January this year, Bharti Airtel became the first telecom operator in the country to demonstrate its 5G readiness by demonstrating live 5G service over a commercial network in Hyderabad city. For doing so, Bharti used spectrum sharing technologies and operated 5G technology using its existing spectrum bands like 1800/2100/2300 MHz and sub-GHz bands 800/900 Mhz.
Prior to the auction, telcos had sought clarity from the DoT if 5G services could be offered on the airwaves bought through this sale. The DoT had clarified that any new technology can be launched, but information regarding it should be provided six months before offering the services.
When Bharti conduced the 5G demonstration, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, Bharti Airtel (India and South Asia), had said the company’s network was fully ready and 5G can be switched on using the existing spectrum.
But as 5G requires big chunks of spectrum, it would wait for government to auction more airwaves, like in the 3.5 GHz band. Asked specifically, if the company could launch 5G without the 3.5 GHz band, which has been earmarked for 5G in the country, Vittal had said, “Yes we can start 5G even without 3.5 GHz. Delivering a good experience for 5G is a must and for that, you need more spectrum, especially in the mid-band. But that does not mean that 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz can’t be used,” he had said.
In the past, Reliance Jio has also said that it would roll out its 5G services in the second half of this year, which means it would also use the existing 4G bands to provide 5G services as the auction for 5G spectrum bands won’t happen before next year.