Spectrum allocation plan may be updated when telecom bill goes live
A key central policy that dictates spectrum allocation for all forms of communication, and use by all government and private users is expected to be updated around the time the telecom bill goes live, officials from the Telecom Department said. This may open up new spectrums for 5G auction and deployment in the next 6-10 months.
The National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP) is a central policy that defines the roadmap for future spectrum usage by all national authorities, including the telecom department, the department of space and the defence ministry.
It provides a broad regulatory framework, identifying which frequency bands are available for cellular mobile service, Wi-Fi, sound and television broadcasting, radionavigation for aircraft and ships, defence and security communications, disaster relief and emergency communications, satellite-broadcasting, among others.
Last released in 2018, it needs to be updated since the International Telecom Union has notified new frequencies for 5G deployment. Back in 2021, the Telecom Department had formed three working groups to review spectrum bands for suggesting updates or changes to the NFAP. But it is yet to submit its recommendations, officials said.
Regarding the delay, officials said the ongoing stakeholder consultations on the telecom bill would give them more opportunity to calibrate the policy and increase the NFAP’s effectiveness. “The updated plan (NFAP)is expected to guide the spectrum usage for 5G as a whole. It therefore needs more fine tuning. There is a thinking that the revised plan should be launched once the draft telecom bill is made into law,” an official said.
Work on the same is being undertaken by the Department’s Wireless Planning & Coordination Wing. The wing is the National Radio Regulatory Authority responsible for Frequency Spectrum Management, including licensing and caters for the needs of all wireless users in the country.
Last week, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) released the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, which seeks to replace the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950. While the deadline for sending stakeholder comments on the draft is till October 20, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has said the draft would become a bill in the next 6-10 months as the government is in no hurry.
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Telecom companies had earlier sought globally harmonised bands to be identified for 5G services in the country to enhance interoperability between networks. They also asked the DoT’s wireless planning cell to update the NFAP, 2018, with new spectrum bands such as 26GHz (gigahertz) that have been identified by the International Telecom Union (ITU) for 5G deployment.
A frequency band is how wireless data is transmitted between devices through radio waves that transfer the data.
In November 2019, the Geneva-based ITU had identified several new air waves including those in the 24.25-27.5 GHzh bands, 37-43.5 GHz bands, 45.5-47 GHz bands, 47.2-48.2 GHz bands, and 66-71 GHz bands for 5G services. Effectively as much as 17.25 GHz was approved for 5G deployment by the ITU at the World radio communications 2019 conference in Egypt however none of these bands have been included in India’s NFAP yet.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had earlier earmarked spectrum in the 3,300-3,600 MHz bands, or mid-band spectrum, for 5G auction. However, 26 GHz is regarded as the most efficient for 5G services. Subsequently, the government auctioned both bands in the last mega spectrum auction. About 72,098 MHz of spectrum was offered for auction, of which 51,236 MHz has been sold.