JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): The government is planning auction segments of the 2.1 GHz radio frequency band in a move that may hasten 5G network development as the country strives to cultivate a more technological economy.
According to the Communications and Information Ministry, the bands of 1975-1980 megahertz (MHz) and 2165-2170 MHz will be auctioned for use in Indonesian territory.
Sigit Puspito Wigati Jarot, head of the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel), said the auction could spur the development of 5G services in the archipelago.
“The 2.1 GHz band is very interesting because it is a ‘sweet spot spectrum’ left from the previous generation. The demand for broadband data also keeps on increasing, while the available spectrum is very limited, if not inadequate,” Sigit told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
“So, although [the government is only auctioning] 10 MHz [in total], it is very likely that cellular operators will fight tooth and nail to win this part of the spectrum,” he added.
Sigit added that 5G technology made use of three general frequency bands with distinct capabilities. The low band lay below the 1 GHz threshold and had the greatest coverage radius but the lowest speeds; the mid band offered a balance of both coverage and speed and occupied the 1-6 GHz range; while the high band consisted of the 24-40 GHz range and had the highest speeds with the smallest coverage radius.
“5G is designed to be flexible in its utilisation, within the spectrum range of 400 MHz to 90 GHz, from low band to mid band to high band. Due to limited spectrum [availability], the 5G use case in Indonesia has not developed that much and users cannot take advantage of 5G optimally,” Sigit added.
Arif Angga, chair of Indonesian Internet Providers Association (APJII), concurred that the available frequency band was very limited and was vital for cell operators’ businesses, meaning the upcoming auction could be significant for companies’ G5 development plans.
“Cell operators have been using the 2.1 GHz frequency to provide their mobile broadband services in Indonesia. Since the [Communications and Information Ministry] has determined this to be neutral frequency, cell operators can use it for 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G technology.
"Thus, cell operators who possess a 5G permit can use this frequency for the fifth-generation network technology,” Arif said.
Some 5G developments have been in motion since last year, but Sigit said the presence of the technology had been unnoticeable due to the lack of spectrum devoted to it, making it “a mere showcase”.
He added that although the 2.1 GHz band could be used for 5G development, it would have to be accompanied by other changes to make a real difference.
“Only when 5G spectrum in mid bands and high bands starts to get auctioned will operators be able to innovate more broadly in 5G business models and use cases. Thus, in the context of 5G development, the auction of 10 MHz from the 2.1 GHz band may not have that big of an impact,” he said.
Nevertheless, Arif said each additional frequency band helped telecommunications services.
“With additional frequency [devoted to consumer telecommunications], people can expect better speed from cellular providers. Hopefully, this will shift the competition in the telecommunications industry from a price war to service-based [competition],” Arif told the Post on Monday.
A number of cell operators said they were still looking into whether they would apply to participate in the auction.
One provider, XL Axiata, expressed more direct interest.
“We are interested in joining the auction because frequency is a limited resource that is vital for giving the best service to the customers,” said Marwan O Baasir, chief of corporate affairs at XL Axiata.
“We are committed to supporting the implementation of 5G in Indonesia, and participating in this frequency auction is part of that commitment. We plan to use this frequency for 5G implementation as well as for 4G service quality improvements,” he added.
Smartfren and Indosat Ooredo Hutchison (IOH) told the Post that their decisions were still under review.
“We will undergo an internal study concerning [whether to participate in the auction of the frequency bands]. Essentially, all operators need additional frequency to increase customers’ digital experience,” said Steve Saerang, senior VP of corporate communications at IOH.
Telkom did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
“This selection is officially open to all cellular operators that can meet the terms and conditions of the selection documents,” said Denny Setiawan, head of the auction selection team in a press statement released on Aug 25.
He added that the auction sought to optimise the use of the radio frequency spectrum.