ONGC, satellite operators worried about upcoming 5G spectrum auction in India

ONGC and satellite operators in India have raised objections to the upcoming 5G spectrum auctions.

An umbrella body of several satellite infrastructure organizations suggested that existing facilities that fall in the bands scheduled for the ‘5G auction’ should be allowed to operate.

Telecom services have encroached on higher and higher frequencies of radio spectrum with each successive generation. Starting from 900 MHz for the first and second generation (2G) services, they moved up to 2100 MHz with 3G.

Now, withr 4G, they have been allocated spectrum all the way up to Band 41 — or 2,700 MHz.

For the upcoming 5G auction, the TRAI has come out with proposal to include 3,300-3,400 and 3,400-3,600 MHz bands in the upcoming 5G auctions.

Driving the upward move is the hunger for spectrum to support data growth.

It is believed that each 5G operator would need about 150 MHz of spectrum — three times as much as what 4G operators use and 15 times as much as what 3G operators in India use.


Technically, the auction of 3300-3600 should not pose a problem as the C Band satellite spectrum is technically supposed to start at 3,700 MHz.

However, this has not been followed in practice and there are several ‘fixed satellite users’ who use the 3,400-3,600 band in India.

“Regarding India’s decision to auction the 3300-3600 MHz frequency range, TRAI should first examine to what extent there are already licensed fixed satellite service earth stations in the C-band and what will happen to them,” said a joint statement from the APSCC, CASBAA, ESAA and GVF — all representing satellite operators or users.

“Depending on the number of such earth stations, the services they are providing and their location, it may not be feasibly to require such earth stations to vacate the 3,400-3,600 MHz band,” they said.

As an alternative, they suggested that these isolated facilities be given a buffer from 5G operations so that they could continue to operate.

“In any event, the presence of FSS earth stations in the 3400-3600 MHz band will have to be taken in any valuation of the spectrum to be auctioned,” it said.

The satellite operators also expressed their objection to the telecom regulator casting its eyes on their C Band spectrum that stretches from 3700 MHz to 4200 MHz.

The TRAI in its discussion paper on 5G spectrum auction, had noted that the “frequency range 3300-4200 MHz is likely to emerge as a primary band for early 5G introduction.”

The satellite operators noted that after much debate, the International Telecommunication Union had agreed not to touch frequencies between 3700-4200 MHz while rolling out 5G services.

Hundreds of TV channels and other services are beamed across the world, as in India, in this band. Unlike the Ku band used for DTH, signals in C Band do not fade in the rain, and a single transponder can beam a signal all the way from Africa to China.


Oil and gas producer ONGC Ltd also raised alarm at the decision to allocate the 3300-3600 band to telecom operators for 5G services.

It said it was currently building out a huge communication system within this band, and auctioning it to telecom operators would put its investments into jeopardy.

“Over the years, ONGC has incurred huge expenditure on implementation of captive network in 3.3-3.4 GHz band for extending communication to remote and geographically distant areas where either no service provider has presence (Offshore) or operational requirement of ONGC cannot be met by service provider’s infrastructure.

“It is also observed that in April 2017, DoT has, for the first time proposed to include 3.3-3.4 GHz band among the bands to be auctioned in the future auction.

“ONGC has large deployment in 3.3-3.4 GHz bands and also one project covering about 200 remote locations in North Eastern & Southern India, is under implementation and hence it is felt that inclusion of this band for auction will severely impact its operations. The impact will adversely affect ONGC operations,” the company said.