India's homegrown 5Gi standard is likely to be included in Release 17 of the international 3GPP 5G standards, according to media reports. This would be the first time that Indian contributions would be included in the international standards.
If included, it will give a major boost to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)'s Telecommunications Standards Development Society of India (TSDSI), which has spearheaded development.
3GPP defines the global standard for the telecom sector. It introduced Release 15, which includes standards for 5G deployment. However, Release 17 is likely to be completed only by March 2022.
5Gi's main feature, low mobility large cell (LMLC), is designed to enhance the signal transmission range of a basestation several times, helping service providers cost-effectively expand coverage in rural areas.
Indian telcos raised concerns regarding interoperability and the high cost of deployment where 5Gi is concerned.
As a result, none of the service providers has trialed 5Gi as part of the ongoing 5G trials.
Global vendors and industry bodies have voiced concerns and reluctance to adopt 5Gi standards. Inclusion in the 3GPP standard would normally lead to widespread adoption. However, the TSDSI has said in the past that deployment requires only minor software changes, and there will not be any significant increase in cost.
5Gi was developed as part of the Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) government initiative to promote the use of locally developed technologies and solutions.
At one point, it was speculated that 5Gi might be made mandatory for Indian telcos. In November, the DoT formed a committee to work on the commercialization and monetization of 5Gi.
Inclusion in the global 5G standards will give a boost to India's efforts to play a more active role in the development of standards.
Recently, the Indian telecom minister said that the country is already developing 6G technologies, and India may launch 6G by 2023 or early 2024.
However, the country is yet to launch 5G, and the government-owned telco, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), is likely to launch a pan-India 4G network only by September 2022.
Typically, India hardly makes any contribution to the development of new technologies even though it is the world's second-largest telecom market. The country wants to address this and 5Gi is an effort in this direction. However, it will be several years before it is able to catch up with developed telecom markets like the US or China.
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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading