The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a white paper on the 6 GHz spectrum band. In the paper, TRAI has outlined three options – auction, non-auction, and hybrid – for allocating frequency in the 6 GHz (5925 MHz-7125 MHz) spectrum band.

The 6 GHz spectrum band has been a source of conflict between Indian telcos and technology giants. While the telecoms prefer that the spectrum band be allocated through the licensed channel, the tech lobby prefers that it be sanctioned through the unlicensed route or allocated without auctions.

According to TRAI, as part of the hybrid route, the lower part of the spectrum band (5925/5945-6425 MHz) can be assigned for unlicensed use and the upper part (6425-7125 MHz) for licensed use.

Moreover, the presence of existing users and usage is considered as a significant challenge in making spectrum available for 5G use in the C-band (3.3-4.2 GHz). For instance, 3.7-4.2 GHz is used by broadcasters to provide television broadcasting services.

The TRAI further stated that adequate spectrum allocation is critical to realising the full potential of 5G networks, and that timely distribution of 5G spectrum is essential to drive innovation, encourage economic growth, and maintain global competitiveness in the digital era.

However, on the other hand, TRAI stated that policymakers across the globe are increasingly acknowledging the value and benefits of Wi-Fi, for which spectrum is allocated via the unlicensed route. The benefits of Wi-Fi include speed, service quality, accessibility, and scalability.

Furthermore, TRAI said that the third route, which is hybrid allocation will require stringent technical requirements to ensure prevention of frequency interference between the users, as it is seen in the countries where the hybrid model has been employed.

Industry reactions:

Commenting on the development, T. R. Dua, director general, DIPA, said, “The 6 GHz band is indeed becoming a focal point of discussion in the telecommunications sector, and it holds significant potential for addressing the increasing demand for spectrum in our interconnected world. As wireless communication and broadcasting services continue to expand and evolve, the allocation and utilization of spectrum become critical for ensuring efficient and reliable connectivity. The 6 GHz band can also be utilised for backhaul connections in 5G networks. It can support the high bandwidth and low latency requirements of 5G infrastructure, ensuring the efficient operation of next-generation wireless networks. With an aim to create an enabling environment and a level-playing field for all the industry players, TRAI has released the white paper which discusses the spectrum management of 6 GHz band in India and the various global perspectives. It also tries to identify regulatory challenges and impact on the concerned industries. The discussions and decisions at the World Radiocommunications Conference 2023 will be pivotal in determining how this band is harnessed effectively to support innovation and growth in the telecommunications sector.”