ITU hands major win to Airtel, Jio, Vodafone Idea on 5G rollout

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 22, 2019 Published on November 22, 2019

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has handed a major win to Indian telecom operators including Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea by rejecting a proposal that would have drastically increased the cost of rolling out 5G services.

The proposal was taken to ITU, the global telecom standards body, by the Department of Telecom (DoT) in a bid to safeguard the interest of ISRO. Under this proposal, telecom operators would have had to deploy low power transmission for offering 5G services in the 26 GHz band. This was suggested by DoT claiming that high power transmission would interfere with satellite-based communications of India’s space agency.

According to an analysis done by Parag Kar, one of India’s top experts on spectrum-related issues, if ITU had agreed to the DoT proposal then operators would have had to deploy 16 times more base stations, making 5G services in 26 Ghz band unviable.

Normal 5G base station transmits at a power of 60 dbm in a 200 MHz block of spectrum. DoT’s proposal would have forced the operators to turn down the power to transmit at 37 dbm. “As a thumb rule, a difference of 6 dbm will translate to double the number of sites. Now a 23 dbm will increase the multiplier factor to 16. Thus an operator has to deploy 16 times the number of sites to ensure the same coverage with such power restrictions in place,” Kar said in a Linkedin post.

ITU’s decision therefore paves the way for telecom operators to roll out 5G services in 26 GHz band without any restrictions up to 60dbm. In India, 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz have been identified as the possible frequency bands for 5G services. But 26 GHz band is the most important one because it has a large quantum of spectrum thus enabling higher speeds. 26 GHz band has 3250 units of spectrum compared to only 175 units in the 3.5 GHz band. It also enables operators to deploy technologies like beam steering and MIMO. This is not possible in lower frequency bands as the size of the antennas is directly proportional to wavelength (lower spectrum bands have large wavelengths).

According to an industry expert, the ITU ruling will not mean that India’s space communication will get affected. There are enough safeguards that can be put in place that will ensure zero interference between 5G services and ISRO’s satellite communication. ISRO has about 350 MHz of spectrum in the 26GHz band . This can be reserved for them, and 5G services in this block of airwaves can be restricted to indoor usage only. This will allay any fear of interference from 5G, the expert said.

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Published on November 22, 2019
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