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Keeping telcos’ cash crunch in mind, DoT may delay 5G auction to next fiscal

The DoT believes that all the three private telcos are likely to wait for the allocation of mid-band spectrum to roll out commercial 5G services.

Written by Aashish Aryan | New Delhi |
May 10, 2021 3:02:17 am
For the trials this time, the telecom service providers (TSPs) will have to conduct tests in the rural and semi-urban settings in addition to their usual urban settings, the DoT said, so that test cases can be developed and tested for all users.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is not in favour of conducting auctions for 5G airwaves in this financial year as the telcos may not have the capacity to fund the purchase of new spectrum, senior officials in the DoT told The Indian Express.

Moreover, the planning for which waves and bands to put up for auction in the next spectrum will start only after the DoT has studied in detail the reports from the 5G trials, which will be conducted over the next 6 months, the officials said.

“If they (telcos) give notice to us that they want to use the the spectrum that they bought in auctions in March, then six months down the line of course they can launch commercial services. But, if you come to think of it, why would any telecom company want to use a sub-gigahertz band for 5G. It will neither give them coverage nor the signal quality,” a senior DoT official said.

The DoT believes that all the three private telcos are likely to wait for the allocation of mid-band spectrum to roll out commercial 5G services.

Explained

What is 5G?

5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks. 5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.

“The sub-gigahertz bands are used for coverage, while the millimeter band is for capacity. So the mid-band which is between 3.2 and 3.6 GHz has both coverage and capacity. The telcos are likely to wait for that. If they try and use the 800 MHz for 5G, it will not be very beneficial for them,” another official said, adding that the user was unlikely to experience the full range of enhanced mobile broadband capacity of 5G technology unless it was on mid-band spectrum.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, the DoT allowed private telcos Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm and Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea) and well as state-run telco Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) to start trials for 5G technology as well as its applications in various sectors. The trials will last for 6 months for now.

For the trials this time, the telecom service providers (TSPs) will have to conduct tests in the rural and semi-urban settings in addition to their usual urban settings, the DoT said, so that test cases can be developed and tested for all users.

5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks. 5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.

While the low band spectrum has shown great promise in terms of coverage and speed of internet and data exchange, it has limited speed. The mid-band spectrum, on the other hand, offers higher speeds compared to the low band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals. The high-band spectrum offers the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength.

Telcos and companies, which have taken the lead on 5G trials and roll out of commercial services, have indicated that this band may be the most widely used for general customers, as well as industries and specialised factory units for building captive networks that can be moulded into the needs of that particular industry.

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