Even though a full-fledged 5G launch is still far away, Bharti Airtel, managed by Sunil Mittal, is already laying the groundwork for its foray into 5G. In a letter written to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the phone company asked them to formulate guidelines so that new 5G devices sold in India must support all frequency bands. Currently, 5G devices sold in India only support a 3.5 GHz (gigahertz) band, which is a limiting factor according to Airtel.
In its letter, Airtel reportedly claimed that since the government liberalized spectrum, operators are free to choose any band to provide any technology (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G). Therefore, the government should consider putting in place a framework where device manufacturers can deploy 5G devices that can support any of the bands available with telecom operators.
“With spectrum liberalization and the interoperability of technology, it makes sense to align the device ecosystem. Why restrict devices with a particular band as happened during the 3G phase where some devices (3G) only supported the 2100 MHz band. Rather than catching up, India has the opportunity to assess its needs on the 5G front, ”explains a source from Airtel.
Also read: “5G” jobs have doubled in one year in India; Cisco, Ericsson’s top recruiters
While the government has yet to announce auction dates for the 3.5 GHz spectrum – which has become the most popular band for 5G deployments around the world – telecom operators are not bound by any rules for use only 3.5 GHz for 5G. Why?
Until 2008, the spectrum was allocated in the 800 MHz or 900/1800 MHz band, depending on whether the telecom operators deployed CDMA or GSM technology, respectively. Spectrum liberalization in 2016 enabled operators to efficiently allocate frequency bands between 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G services. Some telephone companies have spent huge amounts of money converting their non-liberalized spectrum to liberalized spectrum.
Also read: Apple to launch low budget 5G iPhones early next year
At present, shipments of 5G-enabled devices are minimal. It doesn’t matter that these devices only support the 3.5 GHz band. But when the country will likely roll out 5G by next year, the demand for 5G devices is expected to increase exponentially, and it would be ideal if these devices support different bands.
Telecom operators like Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and MTNL are in the midst of six-month 5G trials where they use a mix of 700 MHz (meghertz), 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands for tests.
Also Read: Airtel Performs 5G Network Test in Mumbai, Reaches 1.2 Gbps Download Speed
Airtel already demonstrated the country’s first live 5G service on a commercial network in Hyderabad on the 1800 MHz band in January. These telecom operators will likely deploy a mix of bands to deliver 5G.
As for existing devices, which only support 3.5 GHz, a simple software upgrade would allow them to support other bands as well. Globally, the 5G device ecosystem is growing rapidly. Soon, many 5G devices will support different frequencies below 6 GHz (450 MHz to 6 GHz) and millimeter wave frequencies (24.25 GHz to 52.6 GHz).
Read also: Airtel and Intel join forces to accelerate the development of 5G network in India