Even though some global trade bodies as well as telecom operators are opposing making the local 5G standards termed 5Gi mandatory, the Indian academia and stakeholders are insisting that 5Gi is based on 3GPP release 15, which is being upgraded to release 17, and the opposition is due to Indian intellectual property rights (IPR).
The 3GPP is a global initiative that provides standards and specifications on telecommunications technologies. The 3GPP release 15 was the first full set of 5G standards, and currently most of the radios and chipsets are based on that.
Even though the government is trying to push 5Gi, it is facing opposition from various quarters. However, the Indian academia led by IIT Madras professor Bhasker Ramamurthy, and other domestic players insist that 5Gi standards should be made mandatory for Indian telecom operators. “3GPP has 5Gi features as optional and have not made any conformity assessment procedure. 5Gi is based on 3GPP release 15 and they are upgrading now to release 17. Opposition to 5Gi is more due to Indian IPRs and we are working with 3GPP for harmonisation in release 17 but there is opposition from others,” Ramamurthy said during a recent review taken by telecom secretary K Rajaraman on 5Gi ecosystem.
During the meeting it was deliberated that academia would submit a draft strategy paper to make 5Gi standards mandatory for Indian telcos with development of device/equipment ecosystem, with a timeline for implementation. The strategy paper would include the adoption benefits, incentivisation mechanism to 5Gi device/equipment vendors and telcos. To proliferate and encourage the smooth adoption of 5Gi standards, India may have a phased approach.
It was also decided during the review that Telecommunications Standards Development Society of India (TSDSI), being a member of 3GPP, should get 5Gi standards incorporated in the release 17 as mandatory rather than optional standards.
As government looks to popularise and commercialise 5Gi, the telecom industry has reiterated that any kind of standards or technology should not be made mandatory and left to market forces for its uptake. The telecom operators have made their submissions to department of telecommunications (DoT) regarding 5Gi during their meetings recently.
It must be mentioned that last month DoT had formed a committee to devise a strategy for commercialisation and monetisation of 5G and 5Gi technologies. There is renewed focus around 5Gi technology as the government aims to become self-sufficient in telecom technologies and standards.
The telecom operators are of the view that no technology should be made mandatory and the uptake should be left to market forces. “If 5Gi has promise and is a good, all telcos will use it and there will be an ecosystem around it. But making is mandatory will be restrictive for uptake of 5G services in the country,” said an executive with one of the operators.
A few months ago, industry body COAI too had written to government with regard to adoption of 5Gi that the ecosystem was yet to be developed, validated and tested. “This may put the consumer at a burden if sufficient options are not available for devices procurement as also the operators will have to undergo additional constraints in validating technologies that are uncommon,” COAI said. Further the body said that any new technology would still have to rely on the 3GPP core to offer services.
The telecom industry wants that government should continue with its technology neutral approach adopted till date while efforts must be made for global harmonization of 5Gi standards by making it part of 3GPP, so that operators adopt it without any policy intervention.