NFAP 2018 aims to create a road map for availability and allocation of wireless spectrum to facilitate development and deployment of next generation services.
Aiming to leverage the latest developments in the telecom sector to offer services like self-driving vehicles and robotic surgery under the Digital India mission, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is considering offering frequency bands like 24 GHz, 27 GHz and 31 GHz for launching fifth generation, or 5G, services.
“International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) 2020 or 5G services with its enhanced capabilities has relevance cutting across industry verticals. To take advantage of 5G services for Digital India, the millimetre bands viz. 24.25, 27.5, 31.8, 37 GHz and bands below 6 GHz are under active consideration for 5G services subject to co-existence studies and global deliberations,” DoT explained in the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP), 2018.
Globally too, countries have offered multiple bands for 5G services. The US, which is expected to roll out 5G first, has identified bands in 27.5-28.35GHz and 37-40GHz for 5G, while the UK has identified 26-28GHz and the European Union 24.5-27.5GHz. In the July auctions, South Korea offered 280MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band and 2400MHz in the 28GHz band for 5G services.
The NFAP 2018, which was announced at the India Mobile Congress last month, aims to create a road map for availability and allocation of wireless spectrum to facilitate development and deployment of next generation wireless services.
A senior government official said through this government wants to enhance innovation in wireless technologies by offering more than 30 licence-exempt bands for short range devices and ultra wideband devices (UWDs), which would enable the industry to build a robust domestic manufacturing ecosystem.
The DoT also expects this would incentivise growth of M2M communications and IoT, which will be supported in a large measure by the forthcoming 5G technologies, the official said. This also is in line with the department’s work in the last few months on launching of 5G services.
In September, the DoT had set up an internal committee, comprising senior officials from access services, spectrum management and licensing finance divisions to prepare a road map for the next spectrum auction, which will include airwaves for launching 5G services. The committee is expected to submit its report by December 2018.
Besides, the high-level forum on 5G, headed by Stanford University professor AK Paulraj, had pointed out that while the DoT identified 200 MHz spectrum in 3.4-3.6GHz band and earmarked auctioning 175 MHz, with the balance 25 MHz to be reserved for the ISRO, the amount is scarce. It also found the cost of spectrum high and wants the government to set this right.
In August, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) recommended reserve prices for the next round of spectrum auctions across bands. It fixed a reserve price for 5G band at `492 crore per MHz, implying that for a pan-India minimum block of 20 MHz, operators will have to spend `9,840 crore, which is seen as steep by the industry considering that in the South Korean auctions for this band in July the price per MHz was just `130 crore.
Industry insiders too favour identifying more bands for 5G services, which essentially widen the telecom pipe, but requires much broader spectrum chunks. Such larger blocks of spectrum can be found only in higher frequency bands.
Hence, for 5G to work optimally, spectrum in 28 GHz or higher needs to be made available. They also pitched for lower price of spectrum in these bands.