The government has offered the usage of 5G testbed free of cost up to January 2024. According to the Ministry of Communications, all 5G technology stakeholders such as the telecom industry, academia, service providers, research and development institutions, government bodies, startups and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) recognised by the government, equipment manufacturers, etc., can utilise this facility at a very nominal rate.

The announcement is made in order to encourage usage of the testbed and give a fillip to the development of indigenous technologies/products in line with ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ vision. Several startups and companies are already using the testbed for testing their products and services.

In March 2018, keeping in view India’s specific requirements and to take lead in 5G deployment, the Department of Communications (DoT) approved a financial grant for the multi-institute collaborative project to set up indigenous 5G testbed in India with a total cost of Rs 2.24 billion. The eight collaborating institutes in the project were the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, IIT Delhi, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering & Research, and Centre of Excellence in Wireless Technology (CEWiT). A web-based portal has also been designed for access and usage of the test bed.

The 5G testbed is available at five locations namely Integrated Test Bed at CEWiT/IIT Madras, IIT Delhi, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Kanpur and IISc Bangalore. CEWiT/IIT Madras offers an end-to-end testbed with various testing services for radio access network (RAN) level, PHY level etc., and other test equipment.

According to the government, the end-to-end test bed is compliant with the global 3GPP standard and the O-RAN standard. Indigenous 5G testbed provides an open 5G test bed that enables research and development teams of Indian academia and industry to validate their products, prototypes, and algorithms and demonstrate various services. Further, it provides complete access for research teams to work on novel concepts/ideas holding potential for standardisation in India and on a global scale. This has resulted in huge cost-efficiency and reduced design time due to which Indian 5G products are likely to become market competitive globally.

Also, the testbed provides the facilities of 5G networks for experimenting and demonstrating applications/use cases of importance such as rural broadband, smart city applications and intelligent transport system (ITS) and shall help Indian operators to understand the working of 5G technologies and plan their future networks.