At a time when countries across the globe are strengthening their efforts to promote 6G research, India, too, has announced the Bharat 6G Alliance, a collaborative platform for encouraging efforts to develop 6G technology. At the launch of the Bharat 6G Alliance, K. Rajaraman, Secretary (Telecommunications), Department of Telecommunications (DoT), and chairman, Digital Communications Commission, shared his views on the ongoing research efforts in India, the need for collaboration and the way forward. Edited excerpts from his address…

It is indeed a proud privilege to be part of this auspicious occasion – the launch of the Bharat 6G Alliance by the honourable minister of communications. It has been just a few months since the laun­ch of the 6G vision document by the honourable Prime Minister.

A lot of exciting research is happening across the country in government labs, start-ups and other research and development arms of the industry in the fields of 4G, 5G Advanced, 6G optical communications, quantum communications and many other state-of-the-art areas of communication. It is very important that India makes its presence felt in each of these sectors, because of the strategic importance of communications.

The Prime Minister launched the Atmanirbhar Bharat programme in 2020, and it has really flourished in all sectors. In communications, we have done a lot of work, especially by ensuring that innovation within the country is supported, facilitated and encouraged. This support for innovation comes in various forms. It is not enough that we just fund research, it must also be in the form of market access support to enable organisations to participate in global standard-making and so on. Unless the Indian industry is present in all these dimensions of standard-making, innovation in developing patents, and producing products for the country, I am sure that its presence will be incomplete.

From that perspective, I think that the support that the government has extended by launching the Telecom Technology De­velopment Fund is great. The honou­r­able minister of communications launched the Telecom Technology Development Fund during the India Mobile Congress in 2022. Within a short span of six to seven months we have been able to attract a lot of very important proposals from various sections of the industry. Not only that, I th­ink two test beds in advanced optical com­munications and tera-hertz communications have been launched.

It is very important, from India’s stra­tegic perspective, that the process of deve­loping original technology in the country be given great importance. From this perspective, several years ago, the Govern­ment of India supported the industry by launching the Telecom Standards Deve­lop­ment Society of India, India’s standard development organisation. This organisation has played a very important role in terms of creating synergy within the industry and academia by bringing people together in the form of working groups and developing the next range of standards.

The work that the government has done in enabling the patents filed under the 5Gi Group to become part of Release 17 of the 3GPP standards for mobile communications was a big step forward, and I must really congratulate the researchers and the academic institutions that helped enable this.

This is just the beginning, essentially. I think this work must multiply several-fold if we want to make an impact on the global canvas. For more work to be done, more re­searchers and innovators need to emerge, and we all need to work together instead of working in unconnected spaces. This task of coordinating, connecting and integrating all the work is probably what the Bharat 6G Alliance should do to bolster India’s prese­nce in the global telecommunications map.

I would take this opportunity to congratulate all the start-ups that are doing fantastic work in terms of developing technology despite difficult conditions. They are the real champions of this country, taking challenges head-on and facing the full brunt of the uncertainties in the market with all their technical skills. We are also seeing a lot of winners emerging among the products being tested. The industry, especially telecom service providers, needs to become the platform where all these innovators can thrive.

I would like to thank the chairman and managing director of Bharat Sanchar Ni­gam Limited for having provided a good platform for proofs of concept. A lot of equipment is getting tested in the live networks in certain sandboxes. I am sure that Airtel, Jio and other telecom service pro­viders are also providing such platforms. However, we need to expand this and provide a very welcoming and positive atmosphere for start-ups to try and test their new-age equipment.