Telcos, handset makers oppose proposal to raise transmission power of mobile phones

TSDSI, which is pushing for a country-specific 5G standard, wants to boost the power transmission level of 5G handsets to 26 dBm from 23 dBm in India to ensure they talk to mobile towers spaced 12 km apart in villages, instead of the standard 6 km.

Kolkata: Telcos and handset makers are likely to seek the government’s intervention to block a proposal of a local standards body to the International Telecom Union (ITU) calling for sharply increasing the transmit power of mobile phones to ensure ubiquitous 5G mobile coverage in rural India.

The Telecom Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI), which is pushing for a country-specific 5G standard, wants to boost the power transmission level of 5G handsets to 26 dBm from 23 dBm in India to ensure they talk to mobile towers spaced 12 km apart in villages, instead of the standard 6 km.

Telcos and device makers warn such a move could increase the specific absorption rate (SAR) level of a mobile phone beyond the 1.6 watts/kg level mandated by DoT, causing higher exposure to radio waves for mobile users, posing health risks. They said such a move would also entail hardware changes in mobile devices and base stations, increasing the cost of manufacturing them, hurting the 5G business case.


The SAR limit specifies the amount of radio waves absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone. To maintain this limit, transmit power of handsets sold in India is capped at 23 dBm. Radiated transmission power of phones and base stations is measured in dBms.

“Raising transmit power of mobile phones is not recommended as it can increase radiation levels and also make 5G devices unaffordable, defeating the goal of ubiquitous 5G coverage and adoption in rural India,” a top executive of a leading telco told ET.

5G rollouts, he said, would also become costly as vendors would have to redesign base stations and manufacture smaller volumes purely for India. This would jack up costs as vendors won’t enjoy any benefits of global economies of scale or global R&D.
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Pankaj Mohindroo, chairman of Indian Cellular & Electronics Association, said mandating a unique handset transmit power standard for India, “could become challenging,” adding that the handset industry body favours following electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) exposure norms set by global agency, International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) – followed by most countries worldwide.

The TSDSI though dismissed concerns, saying its proposal won’t violate any EMF exposure limits. Its chairman, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, said while TSDSI has proposed transmit power of a handset can be upto 26 dBm, “there is no violation of the SAR limit of 23 dBm average transmit power as the transmit duration never exceeds 50% of the total call duration time”.

The COAI, representing Jio, Airtel and Vi, did not reply to ET’s queries.
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