5G auction: If operators don’t bid on 700 MHz spectrum, DoT could consider naming it to railways
The government could consider allocating parts of the 700 MHz spectrum to the railways in case it remains unsold in the next 5G auction.
In the consultation paper presented by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on spectrum requirements for state railway organizations such as the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) for train control systems, the regulator has noted that leaving this valuable spectrum idle would be of economic loss to the nation.
Moreover, since the Indian Railways have already been allocated 5 MHz of spectrum in this band, the development of their LTE-based network will be much faster if other state railway networks also request a 700 MHz spectrum.
TRAI said: “If other railway networks are also allocated spectrum in the 700 MHz bands, the development of the ecosystem of railway radio communication systems between train and track (RSTT) in this band could be more quickly, which would lead to economies of scale and thus benefit the population. of the country as a whole.
Crucial band for 5G coverage
While 700 MHz is the key frequency band for indoor 5G coverage, the general consensus among experts is that it won’t see any bidders in the upcoming auctions.
A report from the IIFL said the following on this: “(700 MHz) is essential for standalone 5G services via network slicing. However, telecom operators are likely to use the 4G core to offer 5G (non-standalone configuration) services in the near term, we see no urgency for telecom operators to acquire 700 MHz at such high prices.”
Autonomous 5G deployment is the gold standard for 5G network deployment, with telecom operators globally moving towards this type of deployment in mature networks. According to the IIFL, each operator needs 15 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band.
While India initially had 45 MHz of spectrum in this band, 10 MHz has already been reserved by the government and 5 MHz has already been allocated to Indian Railways. Therefore, at present, only 30 MHz of spectrum is left for commercial purposes.
The NCRTC has also requested an additional 5 MHz of spectrum to further develop its regional transport corridors.
TRAI predicts that other regional rail companies will likely follow this example. If the NCRTC gets the requested amount of spectrum, it will only leave 25MHz of spectrum to operators, which will not be enough for the three telecom operators – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to provide mature 5G services.
Dimming 700 MHz
Furthermore, the government is not only deliberating on the NCRTC’s request, but also on potential requests from other regional rail companies, which will eventually reduce the crucial 5G band.
If telecom operators do not bid on this spectrum in these auctions, and it remains unallocated, this could further strengthen the government’s considerations to not let the spectrum go to waste and allocate it to the railways for a myriad of essential services, from public safety to Wi-Fi.
However, recognizing the critical need for this spectrum band to deliver 5G services, TRAI has also launched a consultation document to consider other spectrum bands both within 600 MHz and 900 MHz for railways.
While tenders for 5G spectrum operators must consider whether dropping 700 MHz in this auction will induce the government to lower its price to put it to another use.
June 24, 2022