Telecom Operators Push 5G Rollout By Five Years as New Quantum Issue Comes Up

While the first problem in a successful 5G rollout was a pricing issue, the telecom operators are now facing a quantum issue

Highlights
  • The government has allocated 25 MHz of spectrum to space
  • An additional 100 MHz has been allocated to defence
  • For a fruitful rollout, every telecom operator needs 100 MHz of spectrum

There has been a lot of hustle-bustle in the telecom industry as of late, and the epicentre of all these issues seems to be the financially strained situation of the telecom operators. The industry which was once thriving like never before has come to a grim situation given the financial situation of the telecom companies which has worsened ever since the entry of the Mukesh Ambani led telecom operator, Reliance Jio. Another area which is going to be affected by this cash strapped situation of the companies is the rollout of the fifth-generation network technology since the telcos won’t be right away able to invest in the 5G spectrum. As per a new ET Telecom report, the implementation of the much-awaited 5G network will be pushed back by half a decade and is now likely to happen in 2025 because of reasons like exorbitant spectrum pricing, insufficient spectrum and unavailability of the newer bands.

5g-spectrum-auction-five-years

COAI Opposed to High Pricing of Spectrum

A statement regarding this has also come from the Director-General of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Rajan Matthews who has remarked that 5G would be pushed by five years and that is the perspective of the operators. As per the COAI head, in the rollout of 5G, firstly there was a pricing issue, and now a quantum issue has surfaced which is going to result in a delay of the implementation of the 5G services. It is worth noting that the association presents telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and other gear manufacturers like Cisco, Huawei and the others.

Telcos Consider Spectrum Exorbitantly Priced

As per COAI, the pricing which was first suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) which is Rs 492 crore for 1 MHz was deemed to be too high looking at the situation of the industry. The telecom regulator had recommended that the airwaves be sold in blocks of 20 MHz meaning that 100 MHz of airwaves would set back the telecom operators by Rs 50,000 crore. In an industry which is already under a debt of Rs 7 lakh crore, this seems like a very detrimental figure for the telecom companies.

The recent Supreme Court verdict on the matter of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) now including core services has put further strain on the industry. The industry, in total, now owes north of Rs 1.3 lakh crore for the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) over license and spectrum fee dues although a relief has been given in the name of payment moratorium of two years to the telecom operators.

Quantum Issue of 5G Spectrum

The incumbents have been long saying that the pricing of the spectrum suggested by the industry regulator has been too high and they have been asking for a review of these prices as well. However, there is a new issue at hand with the allocation of 5G airwaves for the telecom operators. While for a proper rollout of 5G each operator would require 100 MHz each, the government has already allocated 100 MHz to defence and another 25 MHz to space research. As such, there is only 175 MHz spectrum left for the telecom operators. As per Matthews of COAI, with this quantum of spectrum, there is no point of proceeding. The Director-General of the association has also said that privacy is another issue which will have to be discussed before the 5G rollout since a lot of data will be generated on the 5G network.

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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Vishal

First of all,our government should conduct the damn 4G auction. 3500Mhz (band 42) should be deployed for 4G and then they can refarm it to 5G. By this way 4G demand can be met for some time then latter when ecosystem matures 5G can be rolled out. This also forces mobile phone companies to make support for band 42 (3500mhz)

City
Chennai
Kiran Fernandes | Goa

Vish, there’s hardly any phones with band 42 support, and it won’t be worth using it for 4G. But since there’s 175MHz in band 42, Jio can easily grab 100MHz for 5G, leave 75MHz for whoever wants it. The incumbents could always take the signals in the 3.4GHz band which is just 100MHz wide.

Vishal

@kiran In some western countries band 42 is used for lte. Pixel, iphone supports band 42 for lte. So until 5G ecosystem matures they can deploy 20Mhz x 5 combining them with 5CA which can give gigabit speeds in LTE. Once 5G devices start coming to India they can refarm it to 5G. It’s all upto telecos they have to push mobile phone companies to make band 42 support.

Kiran Fernandes | Goa

Yeah Vish, I checked GSMArena. IPhone 11, pixel 3 and LG G7 one variant has band 42. Let’s see if Jio actually uses it for 4G or makes it 5G right away.

Aniruddha Dhar

We don’t need 5G right now. There are plenty of work to be done on 4G itself. Coverage needs to be increased to every nook and corner of the country. Volte interoperability needs to be implemented as soon as possible so that we can switch off old 2G & 3G networks. After that we need proper carrier aggregation and massive MIMO to be implemented in large scale. We also need cheap devices under Rs.10,000 to have both CA and MIMO support. After successfully completing the above steps then we can venture into 5G use cases with industry partnerships. Remember after… Read more »

City
Santragachi, West Bengal, India
Operator
Reliance Jio Infocom Limited
DTH
Thop TV
Kiran Fernandes | Goa

Aniruddha, actually, we do need 5G. The 5th generation network was made for capacity enhancements, and more users will be able to latch onto the network, and congestion will be a thing of 2017-19. After this auction, Jio would probably buy large chunks of spectrum in all bands, and even buy spectrum in 5G bands for now(maybe 50MHz in the 3.3 to 3.4GHz band and 100MHz in 3.5GHz band). That spectrum, coupled with 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM would give a speed of around 2 to 3Gbps. As more users switch to 5G, by 2025, the speed will decrease to minimum… Read more »

Aniruddha Dhar

Yes agreed

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