ITU to debate telcos' usage of 5G band
ISRO has backed a proposal from the telecom department to slash transmission capability of mobile base stations operating in the 26 GHz spectrum band. ISRO wants zero interference from 5G mobile networks using the same airwaves in future.
The national space agency has convinced the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to push for a sharp cut in the transmission power of mobile base stations operating in this core 5G band to a measly 0.5 watts, which is an 80th of the standard 40 watts radiated by normal base stations, according to people aware of the matter.
The reason, they said, is that ISRO wants a small chunk of about 10% of the 26 GHz spectrum band for satellite services and wants zero interference from 5G mobile networks using the same airwaves in future.
The matter is likely to be debated at an ITU meeting on Monday where India’s position on 5G spectrum bands and technology conditions will be thrashed out. After this, it will be discussed at the Geneva-based agency’s World Radio Communications-2019 conference in Egypt, starting October 28, where regulators are meeting to finalise the rules of operating 5G networks globally in various spectrum bands, including 26 GHz.
The development has triggered a sense of disbelief in the country’s telecom industry, with experts saying the proposed restriction in the transmission power of mobile base stations would destroy the 5G business case for India in the 26 GHz band as financially stressed telcos would be forced to make huge investments in thousands of additional base stations to maintain basic 5G coverage, a scenario that would sharply increase 5G roll-out costs and make 5G services unaffordable for the consumer. A base station is a vital element of a mobile network that sends and receives radio signals from any cellphone. Choking it’s transmission level will make the 26 GHz band unusable for 5G services in India.
“The Department of Space does not have any specific comments to offer at this stage on this subject,” said an ISRO spokesman in a written response to ET’s queries.
Queries to telecom secretary Anshu Prakash remained unanswered till press time on Sunday.
“The maximum transmit limitation of 0.5 watts doesn’t encourage any operator to deploy 5G in the 26 GHz band with such stringent conditions,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the industry body representing Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm.
With such low power, he said, a lot of millimetre wave base stations would have to be deployed by telcos for large coverage, and each of these sites would further need backhaul fibre or microwave links, totally undermining the technical feasibility and business case of 5G on the 26 GHz band.
The government has earmarked spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band for 5G services but the industry wants it to also auction airwaves in the 26 GHz core 5G band. However, the Digital Communications Commission has yet to take a call on the auction details.