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Workshop/Seminar/Conference

Workshop on 5G Spectrum Roadmap: Transforming the Digital Landscape in India

Background

The telecom sector in India is undergoing a technology and policy flux. Even before the 4G deployments have spread widely and operators had a chance to recoup even a fraction of their investments in 4G spectrum and networks, DoT and TRAI are considering the policy and regulatory issues regarding 5G. The latter is in line with global developments where several operators and equipment makers are undertaking trials for 5G deployments. Several international and national regulatory agencies have identified the initial draft of roadmap for spectrum for 5G, as it promises ultra-reliable, very fast speed and high bandwidth mobile connectivity and support for massive interconnected devices. This makes this technology very supportive of domain specific applications.

To understand the implications of 5G for India, there is a need to take into account the nature of hyper competitive market which until recently had 10-12 operators per licensed service area, low ARPUs, fragmented and relatively low amounts of spectrum per operator, high spectrum prices and high debt burden of the sector. In this context, ever faster rounds of new technology introduction even when prior technology investments were not recouped add further complexity. These factors have led to consolidation in the sector, with merger of two of the larger operators – Vodafone and Idea, acquisition of smaller operators, as for example, Bharti’s acquisition of Tata’s mobile services and Reliance Telecom divesting their 2G businesses. This has been made possible by the easier M&A, spectrum sharing and trading policy framework for the sector. These policy changes need to be seen in the light of shrinking time frames for introduction of new generations of technology, 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G.

Fragmented and lower amounts of spectrum with Indian operators has led to inefficient outcomes. Spectrum auctions in India have had very unpredictable results, largely due to poor auction design including high reserve prices. Not only is the growing use of data due to increasing deployments of 4G, adoption of smartphones, and consumption of rich media is putting and going to put tremendous pressure not only on the access spectrum acquired through auctions, but also on the backhaul infrastructure. It is estimated that only around 15-20% of cellular towers are connected by fibre. The remaining have to use microwave links. This not only creates a bandwidth bottleneck for backhaul but is also expensive given the pricing structure. These aspects need to be reviewed before 5G roadmap is envisaged as 5G envisages tremendous growth in data usage in the access spectrum.

While incumbent operators have a mix of technologies, 2G, 3G and 4G in their networks, with 2G and 3G contributing to the major part of the sector revenues, one operator has only a 4G network. Thus, competition and regulation in such a market is bound to create several pressure points regarding IUC, bundling voice and data, tariffs, and increasing smartphone adoptions that impact the financial health of the sector.

Until now, 67% of the sector revenue came from voice services. But with a shift to 4G, and now 5G, tariff plans provide or will need to provide for ‘unlimited free’ voice calls. In a competitive context, data prices are also likely to fall. Thus, operators cannot just rely on increasing the customers’ use of data but also have to focus on facilitating large scale adoptions of domain specific applications. While 4G deployments in India started only in 2015/2016, there have already been announcements from ITU, 3GPP and various international operators regarding 5G deployments from 2020. From the perspective of legacy aspects of the telecom operators, it is imperative that 5G deployment action plan be carefully thought out. Given the characteristics of 5G, that involve not only telecom networks but also deployments for Internet of Things (IoT), it will require focus to domain specific applications enabled by IoT. This has to be seen in the light of increasing debt burden of operators, largely due to high prices paid in spectrum auctions.

For 5G to take off, policy makers and TRAI would have to recognize that without allocation of large chunks of spectrum in the identified new bands, delicensing new bands, developing new models of spectrum allocation and assignment, and licensing, designing suitable auction methodology, identifying appropriate ecosystem, developing and deploying backhaul infrastructure and ensuring appropriate developments in application domains where large-scale deployments of sensors can happen. This would have to be done in a time bound manner in a systematic way, keeping both the national imperatives and the harmonization of spectrum, developments in technology and the perspectives of citizens and operators in mind.

Objectives of the Workshop

This workshop aims to develop a roadmap for 5G in India. The Appendix gives the background information and raises issues specific to India in a global context that would need to be addressed for a smooth deployment of 5G. These would be further deliberated upon in the Workshop.

The workshop is designed for senior policy makers from DoT, TRAI, MeitY, and User Industries, Academics, Legal professionals, and Senior Executives from the Private Sector. The workshop will be held under the chairmanship of the AST, DoT and DG, TSDSI, to get the stakeholders’ inputs and incorporate them into the academia report.

Subsequent to the workshop, the report would be circulated to all participants that would capture the deliberations. The comprehensive report will be submitted to the Government (DoT) for policy consideration.

Issues

  1. Are the current bands identified by DoT / TRAI adequate in the:

    a. Sub GHz band?
    b. Low (below 3 GHz) and Medium (3-6 GHz) bands?
    c. Bands above 6 GHz?

  2. What would be required to make more bands available?
  3. What should be the priority for assigning the spectrum bands?
  4. What process should be used for allocation of backhaul spectrum?
  5. For access spectrum, what changes are required in the auction methods?
  6. What new methods of spectrum sharing may be used for the spectrum in the new bands?
  7. Is the above requirement justified? If not, how should these be operationalized?
  8. How and what process should be adopted to support India specific standards?
  9. What new regulation is required for 5G?
  10. What mechanism is required to work in tandem with sector specific bodies for evolving new regulations?
  11. What should be the mechanism for creating a venture fund?
  12. How should the organizational mechanism be designed for effective operation of such a fund?
  13. What changes if any are required in the net neutrality regime?
  14. What lessons do we learn from global deployments?

 

Schedule of the Workshop

5G Spectrum Roadmap: Transforming the Digital Landscape in India’

Date & Time: November 20, 2017, 10.30 to 16.30 Hrs

Venue: ‘Ganga Hall’, Shangri-La Eros Hotel, New Delhi

Time

Program

10.30-11.00

Registration and Interaction over Tea

11.00-11.30

Inaugural Session

  • Prof. Rekha Jain, IITCOE, IIM Ahmedabad

  • Mr. V. V. Singh, Wireless Advisor, DoT

  • Mr. N. Sivasailam, Additional Secretary (T), DoT

  • Mr. Prabhash Kumar, Member (T), DoT

  • Ms. Aruna Sundararajan, Chairman, TC & Secy (T), DoT

Vote of Thanks – Ms. Pamela Kumar, DG, TSDSI

11.30-12.30

Spectrum Roadmap: What Spectrum Bands?

  • Mr. R. B. Prasad, Joint Wireless Advisor, DoT

Discussion

12.30-13.30

Role of Indian Standards for 5G

  • Ms. Pamela Kumar, Director General, TSDSI

  • Mr. A. K. Mittal, Advisor, TSDSI

Discussion

13.30-14.15

Lunch

14.15-15.15

Spectrum Licensing Instruments: Exclusive, Shared and Common?

Discussion

15.15-16.00

Review and Recommendations - Prof. Rekha Jain, IITCOE, IIM Ahmedabad

Vote of Thanks – Mr. R. K. Pathak, Deputy Director General (IC), DoT & Dir, TCOE India

16.00-16.30

Interaction over Tea