At the “New Spectrum for Wi-Fi”, a virtual workshop organised by ITU-APT Foundation of India (IAFI), along with global Wi-Fi Alliance, Qualcomm, and Wireless World Research Forum, IAFI has requested the government to follow the global trends and delicense the 6 GHz and 60 GHz spectrum, to support PM-WANI and Atamnirbhar India programs.

Speaking at the event, AK Tiwari, member technology, DoT, assured the industry that the government was considering their requests. “Considerations for releasing the V-band and 6 GHz band are already being discussed”, Tiwari said. He added, “DoT is actively considering each part of the argument, and very soon, we will have the approval on the course of action.” Tiwari also said that the currently available spectrum remains underutilised.

RK Saxena, wireless advisor to the Government of India, said that “the 6 GHz band is currently being used by satellites for broadcasting of TV channels. Therefore, we will need to study the coexistence of this band between satellites and Wi-Fi services so as to increase the economic value of this band by sharing and thus adding value to the country’s GDP.”

Meanwhile, Tilak Raj Dua, chairman, IAFI, and DG of Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA) noted that Wi-Fi networks carry about half of the data traffic. He further noted that broadband networks need to work in tandem with mobile networks. Talking about delicensing the spectrum required for broadband, he added, “many countries have already delicensed 6 GHz for Wi-Fi. Therefore, India needs to follow the same,” Dua concurred.

Bharat Bhatia, President, IAFI, delivered an insightful presentation on how delicensing the 6 GHz band, along with V band will benefit India’s broadband ecosystem. He explored that the present chunk of delicensed spectrum falls short of India’s needs. Bhatia urged the government to delicense the 6GHz band from 5925 to 7025 MHz, and the V-band from 57 to 64 GHz.

Claus Hetting, CEO & Chairman, Wi-Fi Now, said, “There is no better match between a technology and a country than between Wi-Fi and India. Wi-Fi is the most democratic technology in existence, and India is the largest democracy in the world”, he said. Calling Wi-Fi, a “great equalizer”, he said, “Wi-Fi can end the digital divide.”

Professor Abhay Karandikar, Director, IIT Kanpur, explored the need for new spectrum bands for Wi-Fi networks. He noted that the country’s Wi-Fi networks have been pegged back by the unavailability of an adequate spectrum. Interestingly, he explored how 5G can benefit from Wi-Fi getting an adequate spectrum. “Wi-Fi 6 has very nice support for 5G use cases, especially for low-mobility use cases. It nicely integrates with [the] 5G core and has excellent support for eMBB use cases. it also nicely compliments 5G use cases and integrates with 5G core”, Professor Karandikar said.

N Sivasailam IAS, Administrative Member, Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal, and former special secretary, DoT, noted that most of the critical spectrum was getting wasted, “We are not doing anything with the V-band and the E-band, and they are going waste. We are losing not only the development of the ecosystem, but we are also missing out on the future for our engineers”, he said. He added that the spectrum can help provide backhaul where laying fiber remains unfeasible. “It isn’t possible to lay down fiber everywhere, and there, E and V-band spectrum will help,” Sivasailam said.

Bharat Gupta, head of corporate affairs, Sterlite Technologies Limited, also presented the opportunities delicensing the 6 GHz spectrum presents. Speaking of the recently announced Union Budget 2022, he said, “Budget has a major focus on infra development, be it roads, highways, ports, and so on, which are essentially the pillars of the PM Gati Shakti program. I believe that Wi-Fi will be the ether of this”.

Alexander Roytblat, VP, regulatory affairs, Wi-Fi Alliance, talked about the Global Wi-Fi scenario and the way forward for India. Martha Suarez, President, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, pointed out how Wi-Fi remains essential to broadband in general. As such, she said, “6 GHZ band is essential to Wi-Fi,” she said. She pressed on that the Indian ecosystem needs at least 1200 MHz of unlicensed spectrum, for the ecosystem to achieve its true potential. Alan Norman, Director, Public Policy, Meta, talked about how the 6 GHz spectrum is important for the Metaverse. Since the Metaverse required high speeds and network capacities, with minimal delays, delicensing 6 GHz becomes a matter of interest for Meta. As such, Alan noted that “we are big advocate of having enough spectrum for making both 5G and Wi-Fi successful”.