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DoT to earmark additional 5G spectrum bands in the run up to next spectrum auction

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In a move to fast track trials for a possible early rollout of new technology in India, the () plans to earmark additional 5G spectrum bands in the run-up to the next spectrum auction. The move is in line with the demands by giants seeking more airwaves for the next-gen technology which will reduce the cost of rollouts.

According to DoT, the revised spectrum policy document will be notified early next month in April. The revised policy will also include spectrum across the sub-1 GHz, 1-6 GHz and millimetre wave bands (above 6 GHz) that will make up India's updated National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP).

The updated NFAP will also outline available spectrum bands and the services for which they can be used for communications, defence, satellite operations under the Department of Space (DoS) and also to meet the needs of the aviation, I&B, railways and home ministries.

The telecom sector has been pushing DoT to update the NFAP as in its current form the plan does not include the 5G bands. DoT has at present only earmarked mid-band spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz bands for 5G services. Both millimetre wave and mid-band 5G airwaves are with the DoS and defence ministry.

The DoS had earlier objected to the allocation of airwaves in the 26 GHz band for 5G services, saying it can cause interference between satellite and 5G mobile networks. The telcos, though, have dismissed this, saying both services can co-exist without impacting coverage.

While the 5G spectrum sale is yet to be notified by DoT, the top telecom giants have sought to include millimetre wave (mmWave) bands for auction along with other 5G mid-bands like 3.3-3.6 GHz. The mmWave bands offer lightning-fast data rates above 2 Gbps and huge capacity, which are critical for running 5G use cases cost-effectively, and since the bulk of the global 5G devices ecosystem is evolving around these efficient airwaves.

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