5G has the potential to unleash the power of digital technologies that can transform society and bridge the urban-rural divide in India. India has drawn up a roadmap to promote indigenous IP development and deployment in collaboration with global players for this technology. As the global community gears up to implement the first wave of 5G technologies, it is important to collaborate on the trials and pilots, and share experiences. A shared vision for further development and deployment of futuristic technologies is necessary to accelerate the delivery of 5G benefits to the global community. Against such a background, the Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI), the 5G Infrastructure Association (5G IA) and the Broadband India Forum (BIF) organised a workshop on the 5G Technology Landscape to discuss and deliberate on how 5G technologies can be leveraged for propagating broadband in India and what lessons can be learnt from the global experience. Excerpts…

Jean Pierre Bienaimé, Secretary General, 5G IA

5G IA is the voice of the Eu­ro­pean industry for the development and evo­­lution of 5G in the region. We have members from various sectors – operators, manufacturers, small and medium-sized enterprises, research institutes and universities. The aim is to create a unified 5G ecosystem by obtaining support from the European Union (EU) and European Commis­sion, and by facilitating the convergence of telecommunications and various industry sectors. The objective is also to steer the European 5G public-private partnership (PPP) research agenda and promote spectrum availability, as well as a holistic standardisation roadmap to develop a globally harmonised and interoperable 5G communications standard.

5G PPP programme

The 5G PPP research programme comprises three phases. Phase I, from mid-2015 to mid-2017, included around 20 projects in 5G core research, and focused on 5G system design and evaluation, 5G air interface innovations, network management and security innovations, and virtualisation and service deployment innovations, besides hundreds of contributions to standardisation in various 5G equipment domains. Phase II is currently on, with 22 projects at various stages. This ph­ase is targeted at 5G applications for industry verticals and several vertical partners are taking part in it. Simultaneously, we have begun Phase III with three projects, targeting the key performance indicators (KPIs) and large-scale trials and validation platforms.

International cooperation strategy

For 5G PPP, international institutional coo­peration plays a key role in placing the European research programme and industry on the global landscape. The strategic objective is notably to support harmonisation activities on 5G vision, requirements, concepts, architectures and solutions in order to build consensus ahead of standardisation, on the basis of research results from 5G PPP projects.

We are also targeting collaborations around cross-continental trials. 5G pan-EU trials are being implemented within a global context. An MoU was signed last year between 5G IA and TSDSI, wherein we discussed cooperation areas between the two associations. TSDSI is ready for studying an E2E 5G test bed in India, under the form of a large-scale field trial with time division-long term evolution on the 2.3 GHz and 3.5 GHZ bands, in order to implement interoperability testing with European companies. TSDSI has also expressed its wish to explore topics relevant to India such as narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT), healthcare, 5G for rural areas and satellites with 5G IA.

The way forward

5G will need to become a globally harmonised standard before it can be rolled out on a larger scale. Since 3GPP Release 16 has been planned for the first quarter of 2020, major roll-outs are expected to take place during the first half of 2020.

That said, 5G labelling has already started even as technology and standards evolve. Spectrum availability is another key element as there is a strong correlation between early availability of spectrum and fast market uptake. International cooperation and cross-continental collaborations, such as trials, will be key to the success of 5G globally.

Satish Jamadagni, Vice Chairman, TSDSI and Vice President, Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited

India, today, is the lar­gest consumer of mobile data in the world. To sustain this momentum, we need to look at the following three things:

  • Cost of networks: We want to have low-cost networks so as to facilitate mo­re data consumption. To this end, dis­aggregation of hardware and software becomes important.
  • Wireless broadband access: In a country like India that has a huge population, digging up fibre is going take its own time. So, wireless is the way to go and this is specifically what 5G is promising to offer.
  • Backhaul: Establishing a robust backhaul is a key requirement. One can have the largest access networks, but if there are constraints on the backhaul front, the entire purpose gets defeated.

The aforementioned three factors will enable us to feed data consumption going forward. These factors will pave the way for which standards come out of India and what requirements are presented by India.

R.K. Pathak, Member Secretary, 5G HLF, and Deputy Director General (International Cooperation), DoT

5G is disrupting the In­dian telecom eco­system. Cloud architecture and open hardware are breaking the legacy hold. Further, with growing emphasis on virtualisation and network programmability, software is becoming more important.

This presents opportunities for new players with innovative products to emerge and disrupt the 5G ecosystem with their innovative solutions. India is contributing to 5G standards for emerging market needs. Strong government support is being provided to develop the 5G ecosystem.

Further, 5G developmental use cases will help make digital communications the central tool for socio-economic deve­lopment of the country. We would have to create ubiquitous optical fibre and tower infrastructure that will provide a strong foundation for enabling 5G services in the country.

Time for India to step up

India has a thriving innovation and start-up ecosystem. There exists a unique confluence of entrepreneurship, access to capital, experienced mentors and a young, dynamic and talented workforce. Further, silicon design is moving to India and the country is set to become the largest design base outside the US. Already, 2,000 chips are being designed every year for global MNCs. There are also early signs of IPR/R&D (intellectual property rights/research and development)-driven start-ups achieving global success.

With forward-looking government policies and programmes like JAM Trinity (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) and Bharat­Net, it is India’s turn to take the innovation lead in 5G. The technology will open up new vistas for innovation in areas such as IoT and enhanced rural mobile broadband where India can play a significant role.

The economic impact of 5G in India is expected to be over $1 trillion. The consequent multiplier effect is expected to be much more and will act as a transformational force for society at a broader level. 5G will enable India to leapfrog traditional barriers to physical infrastructure and bridge the digital and economic divide, especially in rural and underserved clusters. Further, harnessing 5G and associated technologies will catalyse the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), as envisioned in the National Digital Com­munications Policy, 2018, unleashing new economic opportunities and societal benefits to propel India to a global economic powerhouse.

The High Level 5G India 2020 Forum (HLF) submitted its report, “Making India 5G Ready”, in August 2018. 5G test beds have been established at IIT Delhi and IIT Madras, and technology trials are being undertaken by OEMs, technology companies, telecom service providers and manufacturers (non-OEMs).

Action taken by DoT on 5G

An oversight committee, an implementation committee and a 5G programme office have been established within the Depart­ment of Telecommunications (DoT). Fur­ther, expert committees have been constituted for action on the HLF recommendations on spectrum policy, regulatory policy initiatives to facilitate early 5G deployment, education and awareness promotion, setting up of application and use case labs, development of application layer standards, major trials and technology demonstrations, and the budget to fund 5G initiatives. Each expert committee is involved in deliberations to implement the HLF recommendations. Professor A.J. Paulraj is the overall mentor for the implementation of the HLF recommendations.

The aim is to release different types of spectrum bands for 5G as soon as practicable, make innovation and trial licences available to enable 5G trials, and use these licences to test innovative 5G applications using high frequency spectrum, in particular 26 GHz, the 5G millimetre wave pioneer band. Further, DoT plans to work with the state governments and local bodies to ensure that site access and planning are not a barrier to deployment. DoT will also act as a facilitator, working across different sectors to encourage them to work together. And finally, DoT aims to work with other countries to further understand the potential applications of 5G, and how they may work in practice in India.

The way forward

The Indian government is determined to promote 5G deployment and use pervasively, early and efficiently. Further, India is keen to be a global innovator, particularly in areas relevant to developing economies. To this end, India is looking for win-win partnerships between global technology providers and Indian service providers, as well as collaborations with international standard development organisations such as the International Telecommunication Uni­on, 3GPP and OneM2M.