Airtel gearing up for 5G trials using mmWave band, says CTO Randeep Sekhon

“Our next round of trials should be on the millimetre wave,” Sekhon said, adding that they are awaiting equipment from vendor partners.

Bharti Airtel is preparing to conduct 5G trials using the millimeter band, Randeep Sekhon, Chief Technology Officer said.

“Our next round of trials should be on the millimeter wave,” Sekhon said, adding that they are awaiting equipment from vendor partners.

The mmWave band is considered most suitable for 5G services and certain use cases even as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is yet to discover the price of these bands.

The Sunil Mittal-led telco Tuesday conducted the first rural 5G trial in India in the outskirts of Delhi-NCR with its Swedish telecom equipment partner, Ericsson.

Airtel and Ericsson, in a joint statement, said that the trial demonstrated over 200Mbps throughput on 3GPP-compliant 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) device located more than 10km from the site.

It showcased that a commercially available 3GPP-based 5G smartphone could connect to the test network and record over 100Mbps speeds at a distance of more than 10km from the site.

The 5G site was powered by Ericsson’s 3GPP-compliant 5G radio. The trial was carried out by utilizing the allocated mid-band trial spectrum in the 3500MHz band and existing FDD spectrum band.

India’s second-largest telco believes that the first 5G network will be launched within two-quarters of spectrum auction and can cover a large part of the country after one year.

"Within two quarters after the auction, 5G networks can go live. After 1 year, we can see a large portion of the country getting covered by 5G," Sekhon said adding that Airtel’s network is 5G ready.

The government, however, is likely to miss the January-March timeline for the auction of 4G and 5G spectrum unless the telecom regulator sends its pricing recommendations by November.

In case of a delay, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will conduct 5G spectrum sale later in 2022 but is unlikely to wait until the fourth quarter of the next fiscal year.

The DoT has recently sent a reference to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), seeking fresh starting prices for existing 4G and 5G spectrum bands, plus for new bands like the millimetre wave frequencies in 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands that also support 5G technology.

Trai will now need to get back to the telecom department on the pricing, as well as other points such as details of the auction and quantity to be put up for sale.

Earlier this year, Airtel successfully demonstrated 5G services over a live 4G network in Hyderabad, marking an industry first. It is also conducting 5G trials in multiple cities across India and validating technologies and use cases through the trial spectrum allotted by the DoT. Airtel has partnered with Ericsson and Nokia for these trials.