“We are looking to make available additional spectrum for mobile use in the coming five years,” said one of the officials, who did not wish to be identified.
The DoT believes there is a need to provide more airwaves, especially in mid-band, for upgradation of 5G technology and introduction of 6G, which is expected to be launched by 2030. Most of the spectrum is currently being utilised by domestic legacy users such as defence forces and satellites, which may be shifted to different frequencies.
The Union cabinet on Thursday approved setting up of a committee of secretaries (CoS) to work on refarming of spectrum. The panel will comprise various departmental secretaries and senior officers of the DoT. The chairman of the CoS can also take assistance from external experts if required, officials said.
“The plan is that the CoS shall present its recommendations to the cabinet by the end of this year,” said a second official. “As per estimates, a quantum of 1.3 GHz of spectrum could be refarmed from such domestic users. At current reserve prices, it could be worth around ₹5.45 lakh crore,”
The cabinet on Thursday cleared the next round of spectrum sales in which airwaves worth ₹96,317.65 crore will be auctioned. The auction is likely to get a muted response, according to experts, with demand mostly from Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, who need to buy back airwaves in some circles where their licences are expiring.
User Migration Likely Ahead
However, in the coming few years, the demand for spectrum is set to rise with wider adoption of 5G technology. In anticipation of increased demand, telecom operators have been seeking more mid-band spectrum for 5G and 6G use.
The industry has estimated a requirement of about 2,000 MHz of spectrum in the mid-band range in the next few years, up from 400 MHz available currently. Therefore, refarming is necessary to ensure the supply of spectrum.
“As part of the plan, the current spectrum will be vacated while the existing users will be migrated to alternative frequencies,” said the first official.
The DoT has taken note of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023, where several countries identified the 6 GHz band (6.425-7.125 GHz) as a potential band for 6G. However, in India, this band has incumbent satellite users. “Refarming is required in the band, so that India can be in harmony with international norms,” said a third official.
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