India still undecided on 6GHz as WRC-23 makes some spectrum available

India still undecided on 6GHz as WRC-23 makes some spectrum available

The question of India’s use of the 6GHz band appears to remain unresolved despite the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) reaching an agreement to open part of the 6GHz band for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) – or mobile telephony services.

Spectrum in the 7025-7125MHz band will be immediately available for India as well as other Asian countries. An additional 600MHz in the 6425-7025MHz band (aka the upper 6GHz band) will be available for Region 1 (Europe, Africa, the Middle East and some countries in Asia and South America).

India and a number of other Asian countries are in Region 3. However, a regulatory framework has been created for all Asian countries to opt in to this additional 600MHz band in four years at WRC-27.

The 6GHz band is undoubtedly popular with operators. As the UK’s Ofcom puts it: “The upper 6GHz band can provide access to wider bandwidth channels for licensed mobile use that could enable faster speeds, higher capacity and lower latency [and] thus better support the promise of 5G.”

However, policy on 6GHz varies from region to region. Some countries, like the US, have delicensed the entire 6GHz band, a boost for Wi-Fi . China, meanwhile, has decided to use the band for 5G and 6G.

In India the 6GHz band is used partly by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for its satellite operations. This WRC decision gives India time to decide what to do about the use of 6GHz by the ISRO.

There is pressure on Indian decision-makers relating to 6GHz from a number of interested parties. On 12 December the fifth letter in two years from the industry association the GSMA to India's Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw supported Indian operators that want the 6GHz band to be auctioned and fully available for 5G and 6G, arguing that otherwise there won’t be enough spectrum for them to meet their connectivity needs.

But there is also pressure from other groups like the Broadband India Forum (BIF) for the band to be delicensed to boost Wi-Fi and particularly affordable broadband penetration across rural India through public Wi-Fi.

As things stand, India’s Department of Telecommunications has not yet identified the band for commercial mobile services. Indeed, the whole question may not be resolved until WRC-27.

While 6425-7125 MHz is a priority band for operators, Indian operators would also like to use the lower 6GHz band from 5925 to 6425. However, this does not seem to have been opened up yet by WRC.

Among other decisions, WRC-23 has also approved new studies in 4GHz, 7-8 GHz and 15 GHz, potentially freeing up more spectrum for 4G, 5G and 6G.

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