DoT calls meet on spectrum allocation roadmap; telcos, Apple, Google, FB among those to attend

NEW DELHI: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will meet diverse industry stakeholders, including telcos, global tech companies
such as Google, Facebook and Apple, and network vendors Wednesday to discuss a comprehensive roadmap for spectrum allocations over the next decade, and even identify potential bands for high-speed 5G services.

“A virtual meeting will be chaired by the telecom secretary to discuss possible changes required in current spectrum allocations, frequency bands (that) should be considered for 5G and other uses and a roadmap for use of radio frequency spectrum in India during the next 10 years,” the department’s wireless planning cell (WPC) said in a notice Monday.

Besides Google, Facebook and Apple, representatives of Qualcomm and Intel and global network vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung will
also participate in the meeting, to be also attended by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi). Telecom Regulatory Authority of India officials will be present too.

However, both Chinese network gear makers, Huawei and ZTE, have not been invited to the virtual meeting, according to the WPC notice
. The notice comes just over a fortnight after the government had announced that it would declare a list of ‘trusted sources’ for buying gear for telecom networks and amend telecom operator licences accordingly, a move that was seen as the first official step to keep Chinese network vendors Huawei and ZTE out of India’s future telecom expansion as well as its 5G technology rollout, amid continuing tensions on the borders.

“Discussions with industry stakeholders on a 10-year spectrum roadmap and examining potential 5G bands and their availability is a critical need, especially if the government is serious about auctioning 5G airwaves later this year…in that sense, the meeting is well timed,” a senior executive of a top telco told ET.

Telcos have for long been demanding that the government gives a clear road map for auctioning spectrum, which would help them plan and allocate resources efficiently, roll out latest technologies, optimise networks and ensure quality services.

In the past 10 years, the government has auctioned spectrum six times – in calendar years 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 – but has refrained from giving any clarity on the frequency of future airwaves sale.

DoT’s plans to thrash out a 10-year spectrum roadmap and discuss 5G bands also comes amid the industry’s concerns over the continuing delay at the government end in revising the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP-2018) more than a year after the International Telecom Union (ITU) had identified multiple new airwave bands for global 5G deployments, including in India.

The telcos, in fact, are likely to coax the DoT to revise the NFAP-2018 and include the new 5G airwave bands approved by the ITU to faciliate the speedy auctioning of the coveted 26 Ghz millimetre waves for ultra-fast wireless broadband service in India. The NFAP is the central policy roadmap that defines future spectrum usage by all bodies in the country, including DoT, the Department of Space and the defence ministry.

The January 6 meeting will be followed by a string of similar DoT meetings on the spectrum roadmap this week with satellite operators, local telecom gear makers and top officials of defence, civil aviation, I&B, railways ministries, and the Department of Space (DoS).

Last October, the government had constituted a panel of secretaries under cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba to streamline the spectrum allocation process and examine the possibility of drawing up an annual calendar for auction of airwaves that will give telcos a clear road map of the quantum as well as the frequency of spectrum on offer for commercial use.

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