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Even before takeoff, India’s desi GPS under videshi shadow

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New Delhi | Updated: May 13, 2019 9:31:57 AM

To prevent any interference from the 5G mobile/BTS signals in these four earthstations, the DoS has written to the WPC asking that 25 Mhz of spectrum (3.400 to 3.425 GHz) in the 3.5 GHz band of 5G band be reserved for it.

The DoS has vetoed this suggestion saying it needs an isolation zone of 1400 KM radius to ensure an interference-free operation.

Going by the Department of Space (DoS) ’s stated position on 5G services, India’s nascent efforts to develop a desi Global Positioning System (GPS) may be derailed.

The DoS seems to have failed to take into account the interference in the earth stations — which manage the Navic satellite — by India’s neighbours on all the four sides, once they roll out their 5G services.

In its presentation to the wireless planning and coordination cell (WPC) of the department of telecommunications, the DoS has taken care to seek reservation of 25 Mhz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band (3.400 to 3.425 GHz), which is a 5G band, so that mobile signals do not interfere with the satellite signals.

However, it seems to have forgotten that neigbouring countries, be it Pakistan, China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, or Sri Lanka will operate their 5G services in the same band thus affecting the signals.

The story is something like this: India has already launched its Navic satellite, an initiative to develop an indigenous version of GPS and important from a defence perspective. Though the satellite has been launched the services are yet to start. The earth stations for managing the synchronisation of clock signals from the satellite system have been located at places like Hassan, Bhopal, Jodhpur, and Shillong. To prevent any interference from the 5G mobile/BTS signals in these four earthstations, the DoS has written to the WPC asking that 25 Mhz of spectrum (3.400 to 3.425 GHz) in the 3.5 GHz band of 5G band be reserved for it.

Mobile operators, however, are of the view that this large chunk of spectrum need not be reserved for DoS on an-India level. They say even a small protection zone of 25 KM radius, anchored around the satellite earth stations, is sufficient to prevent the 5G systems from interfering with the satellite signals. The DoS has vetoed this suggestion saying it needs an isolation zone of 1400 KM radius to ensure an interference-free operation. This implies that the presence of any 5G system within this radius of the satellite earth stations will impact reliable functioning.

However,while this would mean that no operator would get a contiguous chunk of airwaves at the 5G spectrum auctions, this isn’t that big a problem. The problem will arise from neighbouring countries like Pakistan, China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, all of which fall within the 1,400 KM radius of the locations where the earth stations have been set up. All these countries will sooner or later launch 5G services in the 3.5 GHz band and they are under no obligation to fall in line with DoS’s demand of respecting the 1400 KM protection zone. In such a scenario the desi GPS system will be vulnerable to interference from the mobile networks in neighbouring countries, impacting the very efficacy and security of the system.

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