Not wanting to be left behind in the 5G race, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has written to the Department of Telecom to allocate it an additional 35 Mhz spectrum. The government-owned telecom operator is already behind in launching 4G, and wants to make sure that it does not delay the 5G roll-out as private players start bidding for spectrum this week.
Top officials at BSNL told BusinessLine that the PSU has written to DoT asking for an additional 30MHz in the 3.5 GHz band as well as 5MHz in the 700MHz band. Both these frequency bands have been earmarked for 5G services.
This comes even as the PSU is set to launch its maiden 4G network on August 15.
BSNL has been given 10MHz of spectrum in the 600MHz band, 40MHz in the 3.5 GHz band and 400MHz in the mm-wave band, for 5G purposes. BSNL has asked for more spectrum , in its latest communication to DoT.
According to experts, the spectrum requested is of strategic import to operators. For instance, if DoT agrees, in the case of 3.5 GHz, the PSU will likely be given between 3600MHz and 3630MHz because BSNL has already been assigned 3630MHz to 3670MHz, and the adjoining spectrum will need to be given in order to make the spectrum contiguous.
The private operator submitting the largest bid for spectrum from 3600MHz to the lesser frequencies, will not welcome BSNL’s request to DoT as it would also want to buy this spectrum in future auctions, to get a larger contiguous 3.5MHz assignment.
Similarly, all three private operators are likely to object to BSNL’s request for 700MHz, which is a scarce but important 5G band for clean network deployment. If Reliance makes a bid for 700MHz and BSNL also uses the same band, there will be almost no spectrum left for Bharti Airtel or Vodafone Idea if they want to buy this spectrum in future auctions. BusinessLine has previously reported that state rail companies such as NRCTC and others are also eyeing this band.
The government-run telco is far behind other operators in 4G and 5G deployments. BSNL’s maiden 4G network is not yet commercially operational and it has just started thinking of a 5G network in the future.