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24 May 2022

India will have a homegrown 6G platform by 2030, claims PM Modi

By Wireless Watch Staff

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi claims the country will have developed its own 6G platform and will start to deploy it by 2030.

That would put India in the first wave of expected launches of 6G networks. Although standardization work has not begun, there is a general expectation that there will be three 5G-Advanced standards releases (starting with Release 18 in 2024) and that the first 6G release might be in 2027 or 2028.

All that supposes that the industry does indeed support another ‘G’ and that it will be devised based on conventional standards processes, despite the rising influence of open source and cloud software initiatives in mobile networks, and the increasing participation of industry groups from beyond mobile such as CableLabs and the Broadband Forum.

Even if Modi’s statements are largely tub-thumping, they reinforce India’s determination to be more self-sufficient in strategic technologies such as 5G and 6G, both to reduce reliance on foreign vendors and intellectual property, and to encourage the creation of a major local industry.

India has its own 5G variant, 5Gi, though that is mainly an implementation of 3GPP standards geared to low cost coverage using low frequency spectrum. More interesting are the efforts by Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel to build their own Open RAN and 5G platforms using reference designs, software and components from local partners. These platforms could potentially form the basis of commercial offerings for other countries, in the same way as Rakuten’s Symphony.

The operator-led efforts, and government-sponsored R&D, to build 5G in a way that suits the Indian market could, if successful, lead to redoubled efforts to help define 6G. Modi is committing to accelerate hi-tech development initiatives to catch up with those of other major 5G players such as South Korea. He recently created a 6G taskforce, following the formation of a working group last November, under the auspices of the  Department of Telecommunications (DoT), to drive development of homegrown solutions.

“We will have designed-in-India telecom software for running the networks, manufactured-in-India telecom equipment, served-in-India telecom networks, which can go global,” said minister of communications Ashwini Vaishnaw.

Modi pledged to avoid the mistakes of the past, which hampered India’s progress in mobile connectivity. The 2G era was marred by “corruption and policy paralysis”, he said, but there have been steady improvements since then in the regulatory environment (something with which the MNOs might disagree, given the high spectrum prices and small allocations that have characterized most major auctions, and seem likely to affect the upcoming 5G sale too).

Last month, Vaishnaw said he hoped that auction, which has been delayed by two years by the pandemic and by operator objections, would kick off in June this year, but no formal date has been announced, and some sources believe it will not take place until August at the earliest, and possibly not until next year.

In his speech to regulator TRAI, Modi said that the introduction of 5G in India would “contribute $450bn to the Indian economy”, create many new jobs, and deliver benefits for sectors including healthcare, education and agriculture.