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India Announces 5G Spectrum Auction, 10 Times Faster Than 4G

The government of India has announced that the long-awaited 5G auction spectrum will take place by the end of July. It is also revealed that the country will also reserve some frequency for private 5G networks, and remove the SUC (Spectrum usage charge) policy. The 5G broadband will provide data rates 10 times faster than 4G.

Ashwini Vaishnav, the Minister of Communications of India called it “The beginning of a new era for Indian Telecom.” He also revealed the adoption of the zero Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC) in the upcoming auction. This is a step to enable financially stricken telcos to make their bid and not make an upfront payment for the radio frequencies.

The announcement comes a year after the first 5G trials begin in the country. In the trials, Indian operators such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have successfully achieved at least 1 Gbps speed. Now, these companies will participate in the auction to launch their fifth-generation networks commercially.

Mobile Network Signs
An image showing Bharti Airtel’s 5G trial reaching a 1 Gbps data rate

These are also part of the telecom group Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

But the Indian government has also announced that private networks can bid for the frequencies. That means besides telcos, tech companies can also bid for their private use. So far, this has divided the industry in India.

Waves up for grabs

A total of 72097.85 MHz of spectrum will be up for grabs in July. These spectrums will be assigned for 20 years. It will cover 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz bands.

India 5G spectrum Auction July

The government says the mid and high-band service will offer 10 times faster data rates than the current 4G broadband. This can be used for services that require faster speeds and low latency such as IoT, healthcare, energy, etc. Apparently, this comprises the 3300 MHz and 26 GHz bands.

Do read: 3GPP Approves Specification of Upper 6 GHz band for 5G

India to allocate 5G spectrum for private networks

In one of the significant strategies, the government of India also announced that it will allow tech companies to bid for the 5G spectrum at the auction this July. “The Cabinet also decided to enable the development and setting up of Private Captive Networks to spur a new wave of innovations in Industry 4.0 applications such as machine to machine communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) across automotive, healthcare, agriculture, energy, and other sectors,” reads the announcement.

But while the government is upbeat about allowing “outsiders” into the big game of 5G, operators have bemoaned the decision. Also read: 3G Network Shutting Down in the US this Week

The telecom group COAI argues that private networks would “diminish the revenue”. The big companies fear the private networks will leave “no viable business case … for the telecom service providers”.

Meanwhile, Broadband India Forum (BIF) which represents tech companies has refuted deeming it a “misconception”.

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea are expected to bid in the 5G auction. Successful bidders will have an option of relinquishing the spectrums after 10 years. Previously, major operators had expressed reluctance regarding the payment for the frequencies in bulk. But the government has amended its policies by removing the SUC policy. With it, the operators won’t have to make a mandatory upfront payment. In addition, they can pay in 20 equal installments.

Following the successful bidding, companies will have consultations with the government. After this, the county could get fully operational commercial 5G by March next year.

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