Bharti Airtel, the second-largest telecom operator in the country has become the first company to test 5G technology using the spectrum in the 700 MHz band. The telco completed the test in partnership with Nokia. Bharti Airtel is conducting 5G trials with the spectrum that was allotted to the telcos by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
This 5G test using the spectrum in the 700 MHz band was conducted in the outskirts of Kolkata. It is worth noting that this was also the first 5G trial conducted in Eastern India. Nokia and Airtel were able to achieve high-speed wireless broadband network coverage of 40 kilometres between two 3GPP standard 5G sites in real-life conditions. For the test, Bharti Airtel leveraged equipment from Nokia’s AirScale portfolio.
Airtel Will Only Buy 700 MHz Spectrum if Reserve Price is Brought Down
Note that while the telco is already testing 5G with the 700 MHz spectrum band, there’s no way that it will invest money in buying spectrum in this particular band with its current reserve price being so steep.
The telecom operators have expressed their concerns over the high reserve price of the 700 MHz band. Due to this reason, telcos have avoided purchasing 700 MHz spectrum in the past. Even in the March 2021 spectrum auctions, the 700 MHz band airwaves saw no takers.
DoT has already asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to come up with fresh recommendations for the reserve price of the airwaves in multiple bands including the 700 MHz band.
Note that DoT is also planning to add airwaves in the 600 MHz band for the 5G spectrum auctions. As for the auction, there’s a high probability that it will take place in the first quarter of FY23. If there are any further delays, the auctions will be pushed further ahead which will result in delay of the 5G rollout in India.