6 GHz band spectrum for Wi-Fi to drive broadband penetration: BIF

Financial Express, April 12, 2023

New Delhi-based policy think tank Broadband India Forum (BIF) on Tuesday said the spectrum in the 6 GHz band is crucial for Wi-Fi and the same is required to drive broadband penetration across the country.

The comments from the think tank come at a time when telcos are continuously lobbying the government to allocate the 6 GHz spectrum for mobile networks so that they can provide better 5G services.

However, Broadband India Forum and other experts believe that the government should either delicense the complete spectrum available in the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi or at least give part of the spectrum.

“Given that public Wi-Fi is the way to accelerate broadband penetration across the country, liberalisation of public Wi-Fi through the PM-WANI scheme is one of the important steps to help achieve the government of India’s vision of Digital India and to attain the objectives of providing ‘Broadband for all’,” said Aruna Sundararajan, chairperson of BIF at an event on Wi-Fi and delicensing of 6 GHz.

The 6 GHz band includes 1200 MHz spectrum in the range of 5.9-7.1 GHz. According to National Frequency Allocation Plan 2022, the spectrum in the band is allocated for fixed satellite and mobile services.

“BIF has conducted a very exhaustive study for co-existence in the 6GHz band based on actual data, which has conclusively proved that Wi-Fi can co-exist with incumbent users of Fixed Services (FS) and Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) in the band,” said TV Ramachandran, president, BIF.

“Wi-Fi will not be a competitor to 5G but will complement that,” said Rajkumar Upadhyay, chief executive officer at C-DoT.

Key arguments by other experts on allocating the spectrum for Wi-Fi include indoor coverage of internet better than mobile networks, boost innovations including artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality, etc, using Wi-Fi6E and Wi-Fi 7 technologies, mobile data offloading on Wi-Fi in areas with lower telecom coverage, among others.

“As the need for affordable and quality broadband continued to grow, especially in the semi-organ and rural areas, Wi-Fi can become an indispensable tool in bridging the digital divide,” said VJ Christopher, wireless adviser at the Department of Telecommunications. According to Christopher, the government committee may take a balanced approach keeping in view all the stakeholders.

Currently, the government has formed a committee to open the 6 GHz spectrum and look into the allocation of band. In the vision document of 6G, the government-appointed task force recommended that the lower part of the 6 GHz band be reserved and at least 4.32 GHz in the V band be delicensed.

“The government should seriously look at opening up some part of the 6 GHz frequency if not the full. Spectrum in the 6 GHz is perfectly suited for Wi-Fi to continue to deliver connectivity to users,” said Paramjit Singh Puri, global director of memberships at Wi-Fi Alliance.

According to Puri, despite the fact that Wi-Fi is the digital workhouse of the economy, it is under-appreciated compared with a 5G network just because telcos spend huge amounts to market their cellular network. The 6 GHz spectrum is not an alternative spectrum for Wi-Fi but will be needed to grow the Wi-Fi ecosystem in the country.

Lately, telcos have argued that the shortage of 6 GHz spectrum would compel the telecom operators to densify networks or increase network capacity to meet 5G performance requirements, thereby leading to 60% higher annual costs.

“There is a missing consumer voice in the 6 GHz spectrum discussion. There is a need to understand the experiences of consumers. What is the utility that they’re driving (from Wi-Fi) and what are the expectations from the new Wi-Fi services?” Amol Kulkarni, Director (Research) at CUTS International, said.

According to a survey by CUTS in parts of the country, 90% of those surveyed in tier-1 cities are using Wi-Fi because it offers reliable and uninterrupted connectivity and supports high data usage.

Currently, Wi-Fi is used in the unlicensed spectrum of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

This news item can also be viewed at: