Indian carriers need 6 GHz spectrum to expand 5G: COAI

COAI represents incumbent operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea

Indian operators need spectrum in the 6 GHz band to effectively expand 5G networks in the country, according to SP Kochhar, general director of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

“Unfortunately in the last auction, we could get only 800 megahertz which means we have a deficiency of 1,200 megahertz. If there has to be an effective rollout of 5G in the mid-band, the spectrum requirement will be met fully by taking 1,200 megahertz from the 6 GHz range and giving it to IMT,” the executive said in an interview with local newspaper The Economic Times.

COAI represents incumbent operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Jio and Airtel have nearly completed pan-India deployments of their 5G networks, while Vodafone Idea has yet to commercially launch its 5G services.

The executive noted there is a mismatch between the amount of spectrum available to local carriers and the geographical territory that they have to cover with their 5G networks.

“We are not getting the right type of spectrum. The 5G rollout is mainly happening in the 3.3-3.6 GHz range and that is where we require 2 gigahertz if we have to optimally roll out 5G,” he added.

The executive also highlighted that spectrum requirements are expected to be higher for 6G networks and urged the Indian government to plan a spectrum pipeline taking into account the projected demand.

The government of India recently confirmed that the upcoming spectrum auction is slated to start on May 20.

In the upcoming auction, 5G airwaves in 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 3.3 GHz and 26 GHz bands will be put up for sale. Operators seeking to buy spectrum can apply until April 22. A mock spectrum auction will be carried out on May 13-14, according to the reports.

According to sources with knowledge of the matter, the auction will only draw a few bids from Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) for renewing their frequencies.

The permits of Bharti Airtel and Vi will expire in 2024 in some of India’s geographic circles. Airtel’s airwave renewals this year are in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands in the circles of J&K, Odisha, Bihar, UP-East, West Bengal and Assam. Vi faces spectrum renewals in West Bengal (900 MHz and 1800 MHz) and UP-West (900 MHz).

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