Telcos trying to bridge the divide on allocation of E-band spectrum

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The telecom industry is trying to bridge the divide among players around allocation of E-band spectrum, which can be primarily used for backhaul by mobile operators. Reliance Jio, which has so far been opposing Bharti Airtel’s and Vodafone Idea’s demand to bundle E-band spectrum with 5G airwaves, has softened its stand.

According to sources, Reliance Jio has indicated to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) that E-band bundling with 5G spectrum should be permitted, but only as an additional option. Since Jio has been insisting that all bands of spectrum, including E and V bands, as well as satellite spectrum, should be auctioned, the operator is believed to have told the regulator that the reserve price for E-band bundled with 5G spectrum should be given separately. Apart from that, the regulator should recommend the reserve price on a standalone basis for 5G and E-band spectrums.

In such a scenario, operators will have options to buy as per their requirements. If somebody wants to buy bundled spectrum, they should be ready to pay a higher price. Also, E-band spectrum should be auctioned separately, so that telcos can buy the required quantity as per their needs.

Recently, Bharti Airtel has reiterated that E-band spectrum, which has the potential to provide high-speed broadband services, should be allocated to telecom operators and the government should find some way to bundle it with 5G spectrum, so that it is available for use.

According to Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, India and South Asia, Bharti Airtel, E-band spectrum can enable large amounts of backhaul from mobile towers to carry broadband traffic. “Unfortunately, this spectrum has been sitting with the government and has not been allocated to the players. I think this is a waste of a very precious resource and my view is that we must find some way of bundling it with 5G spectrum so that its available for use in order to build out 5G.”

The E-band spectrum (71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz) has the capability to carry large amounts of broadband traffic, which makes is best suited for wireless backhaul. Currently, there is no clarity if E-band spectrum can be auctioned in the upcoming sale or not. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is yet to decide about the allocation methodology — whether through auction or administrative allotment.

The technology players including various start-ups and big global firms including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Qualcomm, Apple etc, have been wanting delicensing of the bands.