NTA performs the refarming in the 1800 MHz spectrum, to pave the way for efficient frequency utilization to all the telcos for now and future.
With the refarming, NTA, the regulator shifts the frequency of some operators while providing continuous 20 MHz bands to Ncell. As NTA wants to maximize the usage of the 1800 MHz band, they performed the refarming to make it beneficial for all the operators.
Although Ncell had won the additional 9 MHz spectrum through spectrum auction, they were not able to actually implement the frequency band due to no allocation of the new frequency range. Now that they performed the refarming, NTA allocates a continuous chunk of 20 MHz frequency in 1800 MHz band to Ncell.
According to Amar Sthapit, Director at NTA, they did the reallocation/refarming as per the decision of the NTA board and allots the continuous frequency band to Ncell.
Spectrum refarming refers to the process of re-doing the allocation of frequency either for different technologies in a telco or to different telecom operators for particular or any technology. The regulators and telecom operators perform refarming to maximize the usage or efficiency of the spectrum.
In the current refarming, NTA re-allocates the frequency range in 1800 MHz to several telecom operators. Refarming is also performed by the telecom operators to re-assign the frequency chunks from one technology to others, it could be from 2G to 3G, 2G to 4G. This is generally performed from the lower generation to more efficient Generation “G” technologies for the frequency band owned by it. Read about all the generation of mobiles (2G, 3G, 4G)
1800 MHz band
It is the most popular frequency spectrum for the telcos to actually increase the capacity of the 4G networks. Getting more spectrum band, helps the telcos to boost the capacity instantly. So, the telcos vie to get a bigger amount of frequency band for that spectrum. Ntc and NCell participated in the competing bidding for the auction of spectrum in 1800MHz. Out of which Ncell came as a winner with a higher bid amount.
Ncell was already using 11 MHz of airwaves in 1800 MHz and now gets additional 9 MHz to make it a continuous 20 MHz spectrum.
Telecom operators seek a continuous frequency spectrum as it makes them easier to manage the frequency. It also enables the operators to use the frequency for efficient technologies like 4G, 5G. As 4G technology can support up to 20 MHz carriers at a time, this would be beneficial for the operators to maximize their capacity using the existing hardware.
Technically having a continuous spectrum of 20 MHz carriers has much better performance than using two separate carriers of 10 MHz and 10MHz or 15MHz and 5 MHz. An additional requirement of carrier aggregation also increases the cost of operating the 4G network.
As per NTA, the continuous frequency also enables the telco to operate the 4G networks without any filter. If the operators have an intermittent frequency spectrum with some gaps, they need to add some filters for good performance.
1800 MHz spectrum allocation
Here is the allocation of the 1800 MHz spectrum, before and after the refarming.
Nepal Telecom owns the first 15 MHz frequency in the 1800 MHz. Whereas the last 12 MHz frequency is possessed by UTL. So, there has been no change in the frequency band of those telcos.
Ncell, Nepal Satellite (Hello) and Smart Telecom occupy the Mid-band frequencies of 1800MHz. So, NTA makes the change in the frequency band of those operators with the re-farming.
NTA has shifted the frequency of the two telecom operators, Nepal Satellite (Hello Mobile) and Smart Telecom, to make the continuous 20 MHz band available to Ncell.
Earlier 16 MHz frequency band was free to be assigned to telcos. But now with the refarming and latest allocation to Ncell, only 7 MHz frequency is available as an unused spectrum. You can find the remaining or free spectrum in the Frequency band information and Spectrum allocation table.
They also provide a month period to the telcos to use the re-farmed frequencies in 1800 MHz. This period is provided as the operators need to reassign those frequencies in their network. So, Ncell also needs to wait for one month to actually implement the 20 MHz frequency band.