India to evaluate 3GPP and local 5G standards for commercial rollout

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India’s telecom department has started aggressive work to devise a strategy for the commercialization and monetization of 3GPP-based 5G along with the locally developed 5Gi standard ahead of the upcoming 5G auctions.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reportedly formed a committee to work on its plan for high-speed technology and standards.

The move follows The Telecommunication Engineering Centre’s (TEC) bid to consider incorporation of 5Gi as a national standard. The TEC and the telecom department invited public comments on the adoption of 5Gi.

Indian telecom operators, vendors, chipset providers, handset companies and even trade bodies opposed the mandatory adoption of the local 5G standard, 5Gi. They claimed that making the standard mandatory would increase the price of smartphones and will lead to delays in the rollout.

According to a report by India’s Financial Express newspaper, the DoT committee will seek inputs from telecom operators, network providers, and other stakeholders regarding 3GPP and 5Gi standard technologies for the short-term by March next year and a further two years in the long term.

Through this DoT committee, the Indian government also wants to understand the current status of the 5G device and application ecosystem globally and their adoption and implementation in India. The department will also work on steps required to nurture and proliferate the application ecosystem of 5G.

Telecom operators globally adopt 3GPP’s 5G standard for the commercial rollout of 5G services. 5Gi, on the other hand, has been developed by the Telecom Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI) in collaboration with the country’s top IIT professors.

Currently, the 5G network based on the 3GPP standard covers around 7% of the world population. It is expected 20% of the world population will be covered by 5G in the next four years.

Notably, Indian telecom operators like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea haven’t started 5G trials using the 5Gi technology in the country despite a push from the Indian government. When allocating the 5G trial spectrum, the DoT officially encouraged telcos to use the 5Gi standard and various use cases.

Indian telcos have reportedly claimed that it is not possible for them to test 5Gi during ongoing trials as no devices or equipment and chipsets are available that support the local standard.

Last month, all three telcos sought a year’s extension to conduct 5G trials, which, if allowed, would push the auction of 5G spectrum to the second half of 2022.

Recently, the newly appointed Indian telecom secretary K Rajaraman visited IIT Madras to see the indigenous 5G testbed developed by the institute and other collaborating institutes.

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