With an aim to encourage indigenous research and development in technologies and equipment pertaining to the fifth generation of mobile telephony, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has firmed up plans to set up a 5G test bed that will be anchored by Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. For the same, the DoT has sought an amount of Rs 35 crore in the second batch of supplementary demands for grants for 2017-18. According to a DoT official, the test bed is expected to be operational within the next six months.
Apart from this, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) too is soon expected to issue a set of recommendations to the Centre that would enable companies wanting to conduct research experiments for the latest generation of mobile telephony to do so domestically. As per a senior Trai official, these recommendations would be a part of the suggestions on ease of doing business that the regulator is in process of issuing to the government.
“We need to have an ecosystem in India itself, which is simple so that experiments can be conducted. We should have sand-boxing, and licensing for experimentation on 5G technology here. For experiment purposes, we should have a light-touch system, where if some company wants to research, it should be able to get a license to do so,” the official said. “If these experiments were happening here, our officials would have been training here itself instead of China. We are soon going to give recommendations to the government on this issue,” he added. In the draft recommendations on ease of doing business in the telecom sector, the Trai noted the telecom companies’ submissions that the process to obtain experimental licences to test new services and technologies such as 5G was “extremely cumbersome”.
To accentuate the process of research and development of technologies as well as standards pertaining to 5G, the Centre has set up a high-level forum comprising officials from the DoT, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, and the Department of Science & Technology, with representatives from industry and academia. The high-level forum, set up in September, is expected to evaluate and approve roadmaps and action plans with a broader target of rolling out 5G in India by 2020, which is the aim for most global telecom companies for launch of commercial 5G services.
India has traditionally been behind the curve in adoption of mobile technologies, especially in when the global standards for 3G and 4G were being set. Therefore, one of the key objectives behind setting up the high-level forum on 5G was for India to be able to participate in the process being undertaken by the International Telecommunications Union and other important global bodies in setting up of standards for 5G, which is expected to be a key driver of the next phase of technological growth in form of artificial intelligence, internet of things, etc.
The high-level forum will also work towards accelerated deployment of 5G for specific use cases in India, and these will include the development of roadmap related to emerging technologies, testing, and trials. It will also aim to strengthen domestic telecom equipment manufacturing necessary for the technology. As per a presentation prepared by the DoT, the targets set for the forum suggest that local manufacturers should be able to capture 50 per cent of Indian market and 10 per cent of global market over next five to seven years. The aforementioned DoT official said that the proposed 5G test bed at IIT Madras will play the role of a key enabler for research and development of domestic manufacturing of 5G equipment.