As the government gears up to conduct the next round of spectrum auction, telecom firms have sought clarity if 5G can be launched on the airwaves bought through this sale. Though spectrum assigned through auction is technology-neutral as also the unified licence, the omission of 5G in the notice inviting application (NIA) issued by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) led some telcos to seek a clarification on Tuesday.
Moreover, the NIA has specifically said that operators wanting to use new technology have to seek prior clearance.
Bidding for the auction will commence on March 1, and airwaves worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore will be up for sale. A total of 2,251 MHz spectrum in seven bands ranging from 700 MHz to 2500 MHz will be auctioned. Airwaves for 5G (3300 MHz-3600 MHz) won’t be auctioned this time.
The DoT has asked the operators to send their written queries by Friday, after which a clarification will be issued.
As per the NIA, spectrum blocks in the liberalised spectrum or acquired through auctions may be combined if required by technology and there are no restrictions on the technology to be deployed for providing services within the scope of the service licence, provided it is compatible with technologies already deployed in the licensed service area (LSA).
The successful bidder shall provide details of the technology proposed to be deployed for operation of its services using the spectrum block assigned through this auction within one month of obtaining licence, if the technology happens to be GSM/ WCDMA/ LTE/ CDMA. “In case of switching over to a different technology (other than GSM/ WCDMA/ LTE/ CDMA), while rolling out the networks for compliance of roll out obligations, information regarding the new technology should be given at least one year before any new technology base station site is offered for testing,” the NIA said.
The technology should be based on standards approved by ITU/ TEC or any other international standards organisation. The telcos will be allowed to use additional spectrum bought through this auction to deploy any technology other than GSM/ CDMA after converting their entire administratively assigned spectrum into liberalised spectrum in the same band.
The NIA further said in case of change of technology, the licensees must ensure continuity of coverage, provisioning, delivery, quality of services in the network deployed with earlier technology. “For use of technology other than GSM, CDMA, WCDMA, and LTE, prior clearance will be required to ensure that harmful interference is not caused to the already operating technologies either in the same band or in the adjacent bands,” the NIA said.
Reliance Jio has said in the past that it plans to roll out 5G services in the second half of 2021, but as 5G spectrum is not being auctioned, the telco may have to use spectrum bought through this sale to launch 5G. The operator has already developed an in-house 5G solution that it plans to deploy to launch services.