Telcos, gear vendors want India to stop adoption of local 5G standard

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Image by AlexLMX | Bigstockphoto

A fight between India’s telecom standards body and telecom operators and gear vendors is set to escalate over India-specific 5G standard. Indian telecom operators are expected to seek the Department of Telecommunications’ intervention to block the adoption of India specific 5G standard, called TSDSI radio interface technology (RIT).

Telecom operators and gear vendors are of the view that the cost of 5G network rollout could go up 30-40% if India decides to impose the deployment of India specific 5G standard, which is backed by the Telecom Standards Development Society India (TSDSI). 

Any move to adopt the TSDSI RIT as opposed to 3GPP RIT will also result in fragmentation in radio equipment and mobile handsets space as there will be a need to develop separate equipment and handsets for the Indian market, telcos and vendors said.

TSDSI, however, countered their argument by saying that telecom gear vendors’ opposition to the local 5G standard is purely business driven and the local 5G standard isn’t a fork standard.

TSDSI chairman Bhaskar Ramamurthi, who is also the chairman of Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, said that vendors will only be required to make “software changes” to telecom base stations to make this equipment compliant to TSDSI RIT. He also argued that merely making the software change will not increase the overall cost of the radio equipment. 

Telecom operators, as per a report by the Economic Times, want India to align with the global 5G ecosystem by adopting the 5G network standard based on 3GPP RIT, which is already approved by the International Telecom Union (ITU).

They said that the adoption of TSDSI RIT will lead to serious interoperability issues such as international roaming, product testing, and economies of scale.

The global mobile supplier association (GSA), which represents companies like Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE, Huawei, Qualcomm, Intel, had in January 2020 wrote a letter to the DoT Secretary Anshu Prakash about the Indian 5G standard and expressed concerns that the adoption of the regional standard deviates from the harmonized Global Core Specification (GCS) deployed within 3GPP, thereby such a move will pose several challenges to all stakeholders.

“There’s no rationale to the claim of increase in cost” as there is no specific input (to suggest) that a major cost impact is associated with the enhancement being proposed,” Ramamurthi was quoted as saying.

TSDSI has argued that India-specific 5G standards with new Low Mobility Large Cell (LMLC) enhancements will enable rural coverage through base stations that could cover larger areas. It said that the adoption of TSDSI RIT will offer financial advantages to telecom operators as fewer base stations would be required to provide connectivity.

TSDSI claims that its 5G standard provides an enhancement to 3GPP’s specifications to increase the inter-site distance (ISD) from 6 km to 12 km for LMLC rural use-case.

 “Both the 3GPP-only and 3GPP + TSDSI-compliant phones costing nearly the same will also coexist and interoperate in networks all over the world,” Ramamurthi said, dismissing claims of vendors and Indian telecom operators.

In June this year, a technical working group of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approved an application for recognition of the 5G (RIT) submitted by TSDSI as a candidate 5G standard, along with the RIT submitted by 3GPP.

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