Improving the odds for 5G

Source: The post is based on the article “Improving the odds for 5G” published in “Business Standard” on 7th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Relevance: To understand the way to improve the 5G spectrum.

News: Recently, the government announced 5G spectrum auctions and limited E-Band backhaul allocation. Two bands of 250 MHz of E-band spectrum (70-80 GHz) are to be assigned to each telco that wins the 5G spectrum. But this is confusing, as there are 10 GHz available.

What is a Spectrum Auction?

Click Here to read about it

What are the challenges with India’s Spectrum allocation?

Restricting capacity: In other countries such as the US or the EU, policies are framed to enable usage of the full 10 GHz at a minimal cost. This provides flexible capacity for much higher output. But a self-imposed constraint by the government will restrict the capacity of telecos.

Even the spread of 4G small cells is constrained in India, thereby reducing efficiency and productivity.

Discriminatory allocation of spectrum to non-telcos: Private companies will apparently be allotted spectrum on preferential terms compared with telcos. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

Note: Wireless backhaul is the use of wireless communication systems to transport data between the internet and subnetworks. It can help an organization or mobile network to eliminate the need for physical cabling.

Limit India’s 5G capability: Limiting wireless backhaul or pricing it high will cripple 5G and even 4G. This is because wireless backhaul will not be deployed extensively if the cost is prohibitive.

Without extensive wireless backhaul, the access spectrum from auctions cannot be fully utilised because of limited direct fibre connectivity.

Read more: Opportunities and challenges associated with the launch of 5G Spectrum in India
What should be done?

Enable telcos to use available resources: This will increase productivity and efficiency.

Follow the US, the EU, and the UK in E-band backhaul allocation: These include non-exclusive nationwide licences, with mandatory coordination and link registration (usually through a geolocation database).

Setting up and institutionalising processes: Indian authorities need to focus on setting up and institutionalising processes such as non-exclusive licensing to telcos, and the mechanism of geolocation databases for backhaul spectrum for mandatory coordination and registration.

Increase gigabit wireless links: Policies need to be framed to help build and grow gigabit wireless links to reinvigorate the sector and recover the trajectory and contribution. For instance, India can replicate “Square Mile” concept in London.

Read more: Analysing spectrum auction

“Square Mile” approach: In 2017, London initiated a project for providing free public gigabit Wi-Fi throughout Square Mile. The design incorporated 4G small cells for better connectivity.

The backhaul uses a self-organising millimetre wave (mmWave) mesh as a “neutral host” that enables use by multiple operators. The mesh gives all service providers gigabit backhaul and access applications at 12Gbps with its 60GHz mmWave access and backhaul.

Allocate spectrum equitably: There are only three serious telecom operators in India. Hence, the spectrum can be allocated equitably to all three without auctions. The funds diverted to auctions could then be invested in networks, and collections from revenue sharing are likely to far exceed collections from auctions.

Mandatory infrastructure sharing: Operators should share infrastructure with one neutral host network, or two competing networks owned by different consortiums.

Must read: 5G Impact: Traffic To Teaching, Factories To Farming
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