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Trai accommodates Prasar Bharati’s concerns on 5G auctions; overlooks private broadcasters

The much-awaited 5G spectrum auction recommendations were released by Trai on Monday.

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Mumbai: Despite several requests from private broadcasters, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) seems to have overlooked their request in the much-awaited recommendation on the 5G spectrum auction released on Monday. The telecom regulator, however, has accommodated Prasar Bharati’s concerns regarding the auctioning of the 526-582 MHz frequency band being used by Doordarshan for providing terrestrial TV broadcasting.

The private players had requested for an adequate guard band of 100MHz between the 3300-3670 MHz allocated to 5G and 3700-4200 MHz being used by them in accordance with the international telecommunication union (ITU) norms. 

Trai has instead recommended the department of telecommunication (DoT) to ask the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) to take appropriate action and sensitise the MSOs, DTH operators, and other users to ensure the use of high-quality bandpass filters operating in 3700-4200 MHz range to avoid interference from IMT stations.

“As the IMT emissions in the 3300-3670 MHz may saturate the low noise block (LNB) of the fixed-satellite service (FSS) earth station which traditionally operates in the 3400-4200 MHz, there is a need to make use of high-quality bandpass filters operating in 3700-4200 MHz range,” a statement issued by Trai said. 

ALSO READ | Broadcasters huddle up as 5G roll-out plan gathers pace

Broadcasters claimed to have faced interference on downlink frequencies during the initial 5G trials, following which they raised the issue with the MIB, DoT, and WPC (Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing of DoT), and the Trai. There were apprehensions around potential interference due to the larger C band allocation to 5G and the limited guard band of 30 MHz between the two services.

“The 526-612 MHz frequency range should not be put in the forthcoming auction,” Trai recommended while stating the following reasons:

(i)  Band plan(s) for the frequency range 526-612 MHz is yet to be defined by 3GPP/ITU.

(ii)  Development of ecosystem for IMT in the 526-612 MHz frequency range will take some time.

(iii)  MIB is using the 526-582 MHz band extensively across the country for TV transmitters.

The telecom regulator has urged the DoT to come out with a plan for reframing the 526-582 MHz band to be utilised for IMT deployments. “To make 526-582 MHz band available for IMT, DoT should work with MIB to prepare a plan for an early migration from analogue to digital transmission, so that the frequency band from 526-582 MHz can be vacated for IMT services,” it said.

Prasar Bharati had earlier argued that airwaves in the 526-582 MHz frequency band are required for the expansion and modernisation of its services. The public broadcaster had told Trai that “availability of spectrum is very crucial for planning DD TV Transmitters. Thus, the decision to use frequency band 470-698 for IMT purpose can be taken only after finalisation of terrestrial TV services by Doordarshan or other private broadcasters.”

“Many analogue, digital-ready and digital terrestrial TV transmitters are operating in the band. Also, digital-ready transmitters are under installation in the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir for which the wireless planning & coordination wing (WPC) has provided for in this band only,” it added.

The DoT, through its letter dated 13 September 2021, requested Trai to furnish its recommendations on the auction of spectrum in the frequencies identified for international mobile telecommunications (IMT)/5G. The recommendations were sought on the applicable reserve price, band plan, block size, the quantum of spectrum to be auctioned and associated conditions for auction of spectrum in 526-698 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300-3670 MHz, and 24.25 – 28.5 GHz bands identified for IMT/5G in India.

Except for 526-698 MHz, Trai has recommended that all available spectrum in the abovementioned bands be put to auction for 5G services.

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