The Centre has invited proposals from major global Original Equipment Manufacturers for technology trials in India.


New Delhi: India is gearing up for the rollout of the next generation wireless 5G services in the country. This is expected to bring about revolution in the telecommunications system in a big way, by next year. The services will be introduced gradually and advance to a full range of services as the ecosystem and demand for the services grow.

The Department of Telecommunications is working with telecom service providers and original equipment manufacturers on technological studies, though no details are available on the estimated revenues derived from the auction of 5G spectrum at this stage. According to sources, the process of trials as well as auction of 5G airwaves may start this year only.

The Centre has invited proposals from major global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for 5G technology trials in India, along with Indian telecom service providers, start-ups, local vendors and academia. So far, six proposals have been received which include China ZTE and Huawei. Any field trial for the 5G will be carried out only through licensed telecom service providers in a restrictive, limited geographical area and for specific use case.

The 5G, which has been conceived as a foundation for expanding the potential for the networked society, is likely to bring about a sea change in the communications system. It will not only make it much faster, but will also improve machine-to-machine communications. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Committee on Digital Economic Policy, the 5G technologies’ rollout will help in increasing GDP, creating employment and digitising the economy. For India, 5G provides an opportunity for the industry to reach out to global markets, and consumers to gain with the economies of scale.

This is to be noted that the standards for IMT 2020 (International Mobile Telecommunications 2020), also known as 5G technologies in the industry, are being finalised and trials of the technologies are in progress all over the world. For introducing it in India, the government had, in 2017,
constituted an inter-ministerial “High-Level Forum for 5G India 2020”, headed by Secretary Department of Telecom. Based on its report, the government is creating an enabling framework for the launch of the services in the country.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) conducted a workshop on “Enabling 5G in India” recently, in which it was decided that since the 5G would require more harmonised spectrum, there was a need to move to higher frequency bands to enhance the capacity. A TRAI source said the participants suggested that the backhaul should be ready to handle the kind of data traffic which will flow in the network.

“It was highlighted during the workshop that 5G has the potential to create huge economic impact. Therefore, 5G should be inclusive and indigenous. Coordinated efforts should be made by the government, industry and academia for contributing in 5G standardisation,” the source said about the deliberations of the workshop. Stressing on the need to widen the licencing regime, TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma said scalability, inter-operability, frugality, optimum utilisation of resource, convergence are some of the key success points for 5G ecosystem development
in India.

This is to be noted that the 3G and 4G services have already been rolled out in the country and currently more than 95% population is covered by these services. In order to facilitate expansion of telecommunication services, the Department of Telecommunications has initiated a series of policy initiatives and deployment programmes.

The issue of launch of 5G services in India was raised in the Lok Sabha too. There were concerns about protection of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure and possible surveillance attempts by the foreign-owned telecom operators, to which Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said a committee under the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) has been constituted to give recommendations on various issues, including security, relating to 5G and technology trials in India. “In order to address security concerns, including surveillance, there are comprehensive security conditions as part of the existing License Agreement,” he said.

As per the report of Forum, more than 150 pre-commercial 5G trials are underway around the world. “A major showcase was in South Korea, where Korea Telecom, working with Samsung Electronics, Intel and Ericsson demonstrated a 5G network during the Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang. In the US, Verizon and AT&T are carrying out 5G trials (both mobile and fixed access) across several cities and plan to launch 5G services in 2019. Several trials are also underway in China. In Europe, several trials are underway with a focus on delivering services to high speed vehicular subscribers like cars on motorways and intercity trains,” the report says.

“In India, 5G deployment strategy faces conflicting considerations. If we go for early adoption, the equipment is likely to be more expensive and being early, it will also be full of glitches, needing costly maturing. On the other hand, early adoption will fast track the country’s embrace of 5G’s benefits and increase opportunities to develop innovative use cases that support Indian needs. Balancing these conflicts needs study. It is also important to note that even after the entry of 5G into the Indian networks, the earlier generation mobile technologies—2G, 3G and 4G—will
continue to remain in use and it may take 10 or more years to phase out,” mentions the report.


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