Jio takes big leap, applies to DOT for 5G spectrum
Just two days after its announcement of an indigenously developed 5G network, Reliance Jio has taken another significant step by approaching the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) for assigning 800 megahertz (MHZ) spectrum each in both the millimetre (26 gigahertz, or GHZ, and 24 GHZ) wave (mmwave) bands as well as 100 MHZ in the 3.5 GHZ band for field trials of its new network in a few metros.
After the trial runs, India, through Jio, will join the exclusive club of just a few countries with their own 5G technology that they can sell to the world. It will also bring Jio into direct confrontation with global telecommunications (telecom) gear giants, such as Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, which dominate the global telecom market.
According to DOT sources, Jio has said its 5G network solution is ready and it can start trials immediately after spectrum is allocated. It has also revealed that it took the company three years and a few hundred engineers to turn this dream into reality.
DOT sources say that, in a communication on July 17, Jio made a strong pitch for spectrum in the mmwave band, arguing that countries like the US, South Korea, Japan, and Canada are veering towards preference of the 28- GHZ band for 5G deployment, while others like Australia, the UK, and European countries want to be in the 26- GHZ band.
Jio’s reasoning is that, given its plans to offer its 5G products in the global market, it is essential for it to have trial runs of the technology on these crucial bands. It plans to test and successfully deploy the 5G technology on its own network, after which it can be sold overseas.
Moreover, it would like to test the technology in dense urban environments because once it has proved itself in such a milieu, it’s self-evident it will work everywhere.
As a result, Jio has requested that 800 MHZ of spectrum be assigned to it in 26.5–29.5 GHZ and 24.25-27.5 GHZ in the mmwave band.
It has also asked for 100 MHZ in the 3.5- GHZ band.
The government’s upcoming auction process is expected to kick-start by August, but it might be limited to only 4G spectrum. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has currently given its recommendation for the base price of spectrum in the 3.5-GHZ band for 5G auctions and not for mmwave bands. The DOT is expected to inform the regulator soon about the pricing of the mmwave bands for auction.
The Jio announcement comes at a time when Chinese telecom gear makers face serious challenges, with numerous countries banning the use of their 5G equipment which they allege is, or can be, used by China to spy on them. Samsung is one player that is overly dependent on Jio as it is Jio’s largest client for 4G telecom gear and had earlier applied to the government to undertake 5G trial runs together. Jio’s 5G technology is based on a ‘virtualised 5G network’, which will ensure the current hardware-dependent networks shift to software-centric platforms.
This poses a challenge to current networks, which are based on proprietary technology, where both the hardware and software have to be bought from the same vendor, who then maintains and upgrades the system, leaving operators with limited flexibility.
The new networks being developed will be built on open platforms, so that operators will have the choice of buying hardware or software separately from different vendors or even building the latter on their own on an open platform. They could also ally with information technology companies to undertake system integration between the hardware and software and run the networks.
Apart from flexibility, this will bring down network costs substantially for 5G. According to cloud-native network software provider Mavenir, the new virtualised networks would lead to a saving of 40 per cent in capital expenditure and 34 per cent in terms of lower operations cost for operators.