Spectrum in 3.5 Ghz band is not up for auctions planned in March
There is an excitement after the demonstration of 5G services by Bharti Airtel using the company’s existing 4G spectrum in Hyderabad but it is unlikely that 5G services will start in India in this year. Operators may be allowed by the department of telecommunications (DoT) to use existing bands for providing any service including 5G, but 5G services means a much faster speed than what 4G provides today.
The important thing to understand is that this latest technology is different from 2G, 3G and 4G. Different networks have to be created for providing services in case of these technologies but to provide a real 5G speed a different layer of network is not required.
The same spectrum can be used to provide 4G as well as 5G service through dynamic spectrum sharing, but for providing a 5G speed large amounts of spectrum will be required which would not be possible by optimising the existing bands as it is very different from 4G. To provide a real 5G speed, operators will require spectrum in the 3.5 Ghz band, which the government is not putting up for auctions planned in March.
The DoT had put in a clause in the notice inviting applications (NIA) for the March auctions that if the operators wanted to use the spectrum acquired for providing any new technology services they would need to give a year’s notice. This period was shortened to six months on January 28 2021 by the government, which created confusion and observers viewed this as the government’s willingness to allow operators for providing 5G services using existing bands.
Operators provided 2G services using CDMA and GSM technologies before 3G arrived in India. Operators using CDMA said that if permitted by government, they can start providing 3G services using their 2G spectrum as CDMA was more efficient. And then this was strongly contested by GSM operators. Today, operators are not divided into two technology camps, but using existing bands to provide 5G services is similar to CDMA operators.
Bharti Airtel’s network is fully ready and 5G can be switched on but the company is waiting for the government to auction more airwaves, like in 3.5 GHz band as to provide a 5G speed big chunks of spectrum is required.
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