Telcos Differ with Govt stance on 6 GHz Spectrum at WRC

Dubai’s World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-23) is abuzz with tension as India’s stance on the 6 GHz spectrum band ignites a clash between the government and the telecom industry. This seemingly technical dispute holds the key to unlocking India’s 5G potential, but navigating the complexities requires a nuanced approach that balances diverse needs.

The 6 GHz Band: A Spectrum with Promise and Challenges:

Nestled between lower and higher frequencies, the 6 GHz band (5925-7125 MHz) emerges as a critical piece of real estate for mobile communication. Its sweet spot offers a tempting combination: wider bandwidth for enhanced capacity, better penetration for rural inclusion, and lower latency for seamless connectivity. This makes it a prime candidate for powering India’s 5G ambitions, promising faster speeds, deeper network reach, and innovative applications.

A Spectrum Under Threat:

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) sounds the alarm, voicing concerns that the government’s proposed allocation significantly shrinks the 6 GHz spectrum available for mobile use. This deviation from the initial agreement, they argue, will throttle India’s 5G rollout, leading to slower deployments, limited network capacity, and potentially higher costs for consumers.

Balancing Mobile and More:

While acknowledging the benefits of 6 GHz for 5G, the government paints a broader picture. They raise concerns about potential interference with existing satellite services and advocate for diversifying the spectrum’s use. Allocating a larger portion for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed applications, they argue, promotes digital inclusion and eases the pressure on congested lower bands.

A Spectrum of Opportunities:

The 6 GHz debate goes beyond a simple mobile vs. non-mobile divide. This band presents an unparalleled opportunity for diverse applications, from fixed wireless access in rural areas to innovative uses like vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication. Finding the optimal balance that maximizes the potential of the band for all stakeholders is the true challenge.

Global Race: A Spectrum of Competitiveness:

With neighboring countries like China and Pakistan actively pursuing 6 GHz for mobile, India risks falling behind in the global 5G race. This could hinder foreign investment, stifle innovation, and ultimately weaken India’s position as a regional leader in the digital realm.

Beyond Technology: A Spectrum of Socioeconomic Impact:

The stakes extend far beyond technology. Limited mobile access in the 6 GHz band could exacerbate the digital divide, leaving rural communities further behind in the digital revolution. Conversely, optimizing the band for 5G could empower rural entrepreneurs, improve healthcare delivery, and unlock new avenues for education and e-governance.

Collaboration is Key: Tuning the Spectrum for Shared Success:

To navigate this complex landscape, a spirit of collaboration is paramount. Open dialogue between the government and the industry, backed by data-driven analysis and a shared vision for India’s digital future, is crucial. Exploring alternative allocation models, such as spectrum sharing or flexible licensing, can ensure equitable access for all stakeholders.

The WRC’s decision on the 6 GHz band will have lasting implications for India’s 5G journey. Prioritizing mobile use could propel India to the forefront of global 5G adoption, unlocking economic growth and social progress. However, a restrictive stance could leave India lagging behind, hindering its digital aspirations and competitiveness.

Legal Aspect:

The airwaves crackle with anticipation and tension at the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai, as India’s stance on the 6 GHz spectrum band ignites a legal firestorm. This seemingly technical debate has significant implications for India’s 5G ambitions, and navigating its complexities requires a deep understanding of the legal landscape.

Domestic Laws:

•  The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933: This cornerstone rules empowers the vital government to alter and manipulate the radio spectrum throughout India. It grants the authority to allocate spectrum for diverse makes use of, which includes mobile conversation, laying the inspiration for India’s wireless ecosystem.

•  The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997: As an unbiased regulator, TRAI performs a critical position in ensuring truthful and green spectrum allocation. It recommends regulations, problems tips, and video display units spectrum utilization, acting as a watchdog for the general public hobby.

•  National Digital Communications Policy, 2022: This policy outlines India’s imaginative and prescient for a digitally empowered state. It emphasizes the transformative capacity of 5G and requires green and inclusive spectrum allocation, highlighting the authorities’s dedication to bridging the digital divide.

International Regulations:

• World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC): Held under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the WRC sets worldwide hints for spectrum use, establishing a level gambling field for international locations like India. India, as a member of the ITU, is sure by way of these tips, ensuring global harmonization and preventing spectrum interference.

• Radio Regulations: These rules, adopted by the ITU, offer the technical and procedural framework for radio verbal exchange, including distinctive provisions for spectrum allocation ideas. They function a technical rulebook for spectrum control, ensuring efficient and equitable use of this crucial useful resource.

Potential Legal Hurdles:

  • Non-compliance with WRC decisions: Deviating significantly from the WRC’s allocated spectrum blocks for 5G could expose India to legal challenges at the international level. Stepping outside the global framework could lead to disputes and hinder India’s participation in the global digital economy.
  • Discrimination against mobile use: If the government allocates a disproportionately small share of the 6 GHz band for mobile use, telcos might raise legal challenges under the principles of non-discrimination and fair competition. Favoring one stakeholder over another could stifle innovation and hinder the growth of the mobile communication sector.
  • Spectrum utilization and efficiency: TRAI has the authority to monitor spectrum utilization and ensure efficient use. If the allocated spectrum in the 6 GHz band is not being used effectively, it could lead to regulatory action. Underutilization of this valuable resource could deprive other stakeholders of access and impede India’s overall digital progress.

Legal Implications of Different Approaches:

  • Prioritizing mobile use: While this approach could accelerate 5G rollouts and unlock economic benefits, it might face challenges from other stakeholders seeking access for Wi-Fi or other non-mobile applications. Striking a balance between competing interests is crucial to avoid legal entanglements and ensure inclusive spectrum utilization.
  • Balancing mobile and non-mobile uses: A balanced approach, while more complex, could be the most sustainable solution. Exploring innovative models like spectrum sharing or flexible licensing could accommodate the needs of all stakeholders and foster a thriving digital ecosystem. However, careful consideration of legal implications and potential conflicts is necessary.
  • Limiting mobile use: This approach could face legal challenges from telcos and raise concerns about hindering India’s digital progress. Restricting access to the 6 GHz band for mobile communication could put India at a disadvantage compared to other countries and impede its 5G ambitions.

Conclusion:

The legal landscape surrounding the 6 GHz spectrum debate is complex and constantly evolving. The government must tread carefully, ensuring compliance with international regulations and domestic laws while pursuing a strategy that balances the needs of all stakeholders. Finding the right legal path will be crucial for unlocking the full potential of the 6 GHz band and propelling India towards a digitally empowered future.

Aditya Pratap is a lawyer and founder of Aditya Pratap Law Offices. He practices in the realm of real estate, corporate, and criminal law. His website is adityapratap.in and his media interviews can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/@AdityaPratap/featured. Views expressed are personal.

This article has been assisted by Sridhan Tiwari, a 3rd year law student pursuing B.A., LL.B. from Lloyd Law College Greater Noida.