Having India-specific 5G standards is an existential threat: Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal

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December 9, 2020 6:00 AM

He further said there should be enabling polices that continue to keep access to technology affordable like affordable spectrum that allows to invest in building infrastructure.

Speaking during the same event, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani said Jio’s 5G network will be powered by indigenous-developed network, hardware and technology components.Speaking during the same event, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani said Jio’s 5G network will be powered by indigenous-developed network, hardware and technology components.

Bharti Airtel CEO (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal on Tuesday said that setting up of India-specific 5G standards will lead to an existential threat that will lock the country out of the global ecosystem. Speaking during the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2020, Vittal said there should be an open ecosystem and in the technology world, standards are what make an ecosystem.

“There are sometimes talks about India having its own 5G standards, this is an existential threat which could lock India out of a global ecosystem and slow down the pace of innovation. We would have led our citizens down if we allow that to happen,” Vittal said. A section of the industry and academia is favouring having India-specific 5G standards. Although Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is yet to take a call on the matter but the industry stands divided on the issue.

Country’s largest operator Reliance Jio has already developed a local 5G solution. Speaking during the same event, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani said Jio’s 5G network will be powered by indigenous-developed network, hardware and technology components.

Vittal, however, favoured an open ecosystem and to stress on his point, he shared the example of CDMA and GSM technologies. “Many years ago, there was a fork in the road of which technology to back. CDMA or GSM. GSM won not because it was a better technology, in fact CDMA was the better technology but GSM won because it was the more accepted technology. More companies in the world embrace GSM and the rest is history. So, GSM won because it became the part of global ecosystem and CDMA died.”

Vittal said there should be an open India ecosystem and promote applications developed for India and by India. “For this we have to come together, we have to set aside the differences and be a part of one, private sector, equipment players, device players, manufacturing companies, IT companies, everyone can benefit…we should collectively sign on to create a 5G ecosystem,” he added.

He further said there should be enabling polices that continue to keep access to technology affordable like affordable spectrum that allows to invest in building infrastructure.

Speaking during the occasion, Vodafone Idea MD Ravinder Takkar said the industry now has the right structure with four operators which provide adequate competition and innovative services to Indians across the country. “We have invested nearly $30 billion over the years and remain long term committed,” Takkar said. The statement assumes significance in the backdrop of the financial stress faced by Vodafone Idea.

“Looking ahead, we have two distinct opportunities… first catalyzing India’s specific 5G use cases. Creating innovative models and partnership platforms… second is getting the bottom of India’s pyramid citizens to adopt digital for ensuring inclusive growth,” he said.

He said nearly 450 mobile subscribers are still not connected to broadband or don’t own a smartphone and the company is prepared to address both these opportunities.

“There are some challenges too related to tariffs, taxes, levies, spectrum availability and pricing. The government understands these and have come up with progressive national digital communications policy and now they are driving implementation of this policy. I remain optimistic that with the government support, the industry and our company will script India’s success story over the next 25 years too,” he added.

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