LOCAL CALL
THE WEEK|September 05, 2021
India’s 5G plans rely heavily on indigenous technology
NACHIKET KELKAR

SIXTY-SEVEN COUNTRIES have active 5G networks, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence report. And this group is rapidly expanding. India, however, is likely to take a while to get there. Though the department of telecom took the crucial step of allocating trial 5G spectrum to telecom companies in May, it is said that spectrum auction and commercial rollout of 5G services might happen only next year.

DoT has allowed trials in rural and urban areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Pune and Hyderabad, and Gujarat. Telecom companies can use their existing frequency and have also been allotted an additional spectrum for this. Reliance Jio, India’s largest telecom services provider, has started trials in Mumbai; Airtel, the second-largest player, is at it in Gurugram and Mumbai. Vi, the third-largest, has started 5G trials in Pune and Gandhinagar with its network partners, Finland-based Nokia and Ericsson of Sweden.

Historically, telecom equipment and architecture were the domain of a handful of multinational companies. India’s 5G network, however, is getting a local touch, thanks to the emergence of platforms like the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) Alliance and the partnerships that Indian telecom companies have inked with local and global partners.

Jio, for instance, says it has indigenously developed the next-generation 5G stack, which will make the technology affordable and accessible. A protocol stack refers to a group of protocols that are interoperable. Jio has collaborated with global technology firms to develop an open and interoperable interface-compliant architecture-based 5G solution.

“Together with our partners, we have tested the Jio 5G solutions in India and we successfully demonstrated speeds well in excess of 1 Gbps. Our made-in-India solution is comprehensive, complete, and globally competitive,” said Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, at its annual general meeting a month ago. Jio has installed 5G networks in its data centers across India and its trial sites in Navi Mumbai.

Last year, Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of American chipmaker Qualcomm Inc, invested ₹730 crores in Jio Platforms. Qualcomm Technologies and Jio, along with Jio’s subsidiary Radisys Corporation, have been developing open and interoperable interface-compliant architecture-based 5G solutions with a virtualized RAN. RAN is essentially a type of network infrastructure (radio base station and antennas, in simple terms) used for mobile networks.

“Radisys is a company that works on virtual RAN or open RAN. We work with them very closely. We have worked in the US along with them and demonstrated quite a few examples of what 5G can deliver,” said Rajen Vagadia, VP and president, Qualcomm India and SAARC.

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