Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Millimeter Wave band in 5G auctions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 5G technology

Mains level : Delay in roll-out of 5g

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked for views on band plan, block size, and conditions for auction of spectrum in 5G bands, which includes Millimetre (mm) Wave band of 24.25-28.5 GHz.

Must read:

Status of 5G Rollout in India

What is 5G technology?

  • 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • It’s a unified platform that is much more capable than previous mobile services with more capacity, lower latency, faster data delivery rate and better utilisation of spectrum.

5G spectrum

5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high-frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.

(1) Low band spectrum

  • It has a great promise in terms of coverage and speed of internet and data exchange but the maximum speed is limited to 100 Mbps (Megabits per second).
  • So Telcos can use and install it for commercial cell phone users who may not have specific demands for very high speed internet, the low band spectrum may not be optimal for specialized needs of the industry.

(2) Mid-band spectrum

  • It offers higher speeds compared to the low band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals.
  • This band may be used by industries and specialized factory units for building captive networks that can be moulded into the needs of that particular industry.

(3) High-band spectrum

  • It offers the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength.
  • Internet speeds in the high-band spectrum of 5G has been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (giga bits per second), while, in most cases, the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps.

What is Millimetre (mm) Wave Band?

  • Millimetre Wave band or mmWave is a particular segment of radio frequency spectrum that range between 24 GHz and 100 GHz.
  • This spectrum, as the name suggests, has a short wavelength, and is apt to deliver greater speeds and lower latencies.
  • This in turn makes data transfer efficient and seamless as the current available networks work optimally only on lower frequency bandwidths.

Significance of this mm band

  • 5G services can be deployed using lower frequency bands.
  • They can cover greater distances and are proven to work efficiently even in urban environments, which are prone to interference.
  • But, when it comes to data speeds, these bands fail to hit peak potential needed for a true 5G experience.
  • So, mmWave is that quintessential piece in the 5G jigsaw puzzle for mobile service providers.

Concerns with inclusion of mm-band

  • The mm bands have been preserved for satellite-based broadband services as per the decision taken by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
  • Providing excess spectrum could pose a downside risk of the bands going unsold, or even worse, underutilised by terrestrial players at the expense of satellite-based service providers.
  • Offering excessive spectrum will result in Indian citizens being denied the benefits of high-demand, advanced satellite broadband services.
  • In addition to this, it will result in a massive loss to the Indian economy of up to $184.6 billion by 2030, along with the loss of foreign direct investment (FDI) and employment generation benefits.

How could this disrupt the satellite communication industry?

  • Internet has largely been provided to users via fibre-optic based broadband connectivity or mobile network.
  • Of late, another class of Internet vendors is showing up. These are satellite-based communication service providers.
  • For example, SpaceX’s Starlink and Bharti Airtel’s OneWeb are some of the players in this market.
  • This segment uses Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to provide broadband to both urban and rural users. Their service could also be used for weather predictions.
  • The mm band had been the subject of controversy due to out-of-band emissions into the passive satellite band used for weather satellites at 23.6-24 GHz.

HeaWay ahead

  • The allocation of mmWave band is critical to the satellite communication industry, which needs a stronger regulatory support to ensure that 5G operations don’t interfere with their existing operations.
  • The industry body pointed to Europe’s “5G Roadmap”, which is built on the ITU’s decision to hold these bands for satellite-based broadband services.

 

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