New Delhi: The telecom department should quickly release spectrum for research and development (R&D) of fifth-generation, or 5G, networks and set up labs to showcase potential uses to industry, a government panel set up to provide a road map for 5G deployment has suggested.

The committee will submit its report to the government in August. 5G networks will be significantly faster and more reliable than the most advanced 4G network and will support connection of many more devices simultaneously than is possible now.

“In the past, India’s spectrum release has always been small, especially compared to the US. For 5G, our spectrum release will be more than many countries which will bring long-term benefits. Making available spectrum early will also enable the growth of manufacturing capability here," said A. Paulraj, chairman of the steering committee on 5G deployment.

Paulraj, professor emeritus at Stanford University, is also a member of the high-level forum, chaired by telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan, which was set up in September to approve the road map to roll out 5G by 2020. There are multiple steering committees under the forum.

The committee has also suggested that the government announce the 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz, 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands as 5G bands and allow for research trials.

“The committee has suggested that the government release 405 MHz spectrum in the sub-1 GHz band, around 300 MHz spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band and 5.25 GHz spectrum in the higher frequency bands for 5G," a DoT official said, requesting anonymity.

It has also suggested the telecom department identify 600 MHz, 1.4 GHz, 30 GHz, 31 GHz and 37 GHz as 5G bands.

“We will also set up 5G use case labs. We want to generate demand for 5G by spreading knowledge of what it can do. For use case labs, we will focus on 6-7 verticals, starting with banking. The banking lab will be set up in Hyderabad soon. We will help them do trials and may also offer financial support. Other labs will focus on railways, agriculture, manufacturing, health, smart village, power, etc," he said.

Companies in India say they have little appetite for spectrum purchase currently as they are battling the pressure of low tariffs and falling revenue streams after the entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, which disrupted the telecom sector in September 2016 with cheap data and free voice calls.

“Operators need to deploy and it has to be profitable for them to deploy 5G. So, spectrum pricing must understand all these dimensions. Operators should be able to make viable business out of it. Lower bands must be priced higher. Upper bands need more infrastructure and it is costlier to deploy so they must be priced lower," Paulraj said.

In August, the committee will submit the report on the road map for deployment and will then start working on other focus areas such as building design and manufacturing capacity locally.

A primary goal of the high-level forum is creating a globally competitive product development and manufacturing ecosystem targeting 50% of India market and 10% of global market over the next 5 to 7 years.