India has started work to indigenously develop 6G technology, which it expects to launch by the end of 2023 or early 2024, despite Indian telecom operators currently opposing trials of indigenous 5G technology.
Indian Minister for Communication Ashwini Vaishnaw said that his ministry has already issued the requisite permissions to local scientists and engineers working on the technology.
“6G development has already started. That will be seen somewhere in the time frame 2024 or 2023-end. That is the direction in which we are going,” he said at an industry event.
His comments come at a time when there’s no clear timeline for the commercial launch of 5G technology by Indian telecom operators. Even the 5G spectrum auction timeline has been pushed back from January-March 2022 to April-May 2022.
The minister said that India will have locally designed and developed software and telecom equipment for 6G technology. The equipment, he said, will also be manufactured in India and can also target global markets.
The Department of Telecommunications’ Secretary K Rajaraman recently asked state-run telecom research and development organisation Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) to begin developing 6G.
The DoT has also formed a technology innovation group, which is being spearheaded by Rajaraman, to work on the 6G technology. The group was tasked with creating a roadmap for research and development and also an action plan for the technology.
The 22 member-group has representatives from the DoT, C-DoT, telco body COAI, and all directors of Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT).
Globally, telecom gear makers like Samsung, Huawei, LG have already started working on 6G technology.
The Telecom Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI), which is responsible for telecoms standards development, has been pushing its own version of 5G radio interface technology, 5Gi.
5Gi is currently being evaluated by India’s Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC) for commercial adoption in India. The TEC is currently going through public consultations on 3GPP Rel-15 and 5Gi standards.
Indian telcos, gear and chipset vendors, along with handset companies and trade bodies, have opposed the incorporation of 5Gi as a national standard, citing compatibility issues with 3GPP’s global 5G standard, which has already been adopted globally for commercial live networks.
The minister said that the launch of indigenous 5G is also on the cards. He said that the development of a core software for 5Gi is expected to be completed by the third quarter of next year.
Surprisingly, all three private telecom operators – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea – haven’t started any work to pilot trials using 5Gi technology, citing unavailability of equipment, chipset and devices.
In May, the DoT had encouraged Indian telecom operators to test 5Gi technology as part of their national 5G field trials
During the event, Vaishnaw also commented that the 5G spectrum auction could happen in the second quarter of calendar year 2022. The DoT recently made a reference to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for 5G spectrum auctions.
“They have already started the consultation process. The process should end somewhere in the February-March time frame in the coming year. Then the auction process will be in Q2 of calendar year 2022,” he said.