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COAI writes to Secretary, DoT

Lt Gen SP Kochhar, Director-General, Cellular Operators Authorities of India has written to K Rajaraman, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications recommending that 5Gi, an indigenously developed sub-standard of 5G, recently approved by ITU be made a part of 3GPP, the global 5G standard. This would ensure early adoption of the technology by the telcos and all stakeholders can reap the benefits of economies of scale.

Lt Gen SP Kochar said, “Chipsets for 5Gi are yet to be developed and even if vendors agree to develop those, it will take one to three years to develop them and that too at a very high cost as these will be used only in India given that the standard is not globally harmonised, hence not accepted by any other country.

This may put the consumer at a burden if sufficient options are not available for device procurement as also the operators will have to undergo additional constraints in validating technologies that are uncommon.

It is not possible for telcos to test 5Gi during ongoing trials as no devices for this standard are available. Mandating 5Gi standard with higher device cost and additional CapEx for telcos would not be justified at a time when 3GPP’s 5G standard provides better results”.

In spite of being the second-largest telecom market in the world, this is the first time that India has developed a sub-standard for wireless communications technology. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), other premier engineering colleges in India, and the government’s Telecommunications Standards Development Society of India (TSDSI) have jointly developed 5Gi. Essentially, its Low Mobility Large Cell (LMLC) feature improves the signal transmission range of a base station, helping service providers to cost-effectively expand 5G coverage in rural and remote areas.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), while releasing the spectrum for the 5G trial, had asked the service providers to conduct a trial of 5Gi. However, none of the telcos are running a test of this technology.

In August 2021, in their submission to DoT, the telcos, vendors and chipset makers had also said that it’s well established that the 3GPP 5G radio (standard) and the one based on 5Gi are “non-interoperable”. That means, any 5G handset based on 3GPP-5G standards won’t work with 5Gi-based infrastructure and vice versa.

The TSDSI, though, had strongly refuted the claims of telcos, vendors and chipset players. “5G handsets require only minor firmware and software changes to become 5G + 5Gi handsets, which will not lead to any increase in costs as confirmed by some handset solution providers and operators,” said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director at IIT Madras, and former chair-TSDSI and the chief proponent of 5Gi.

He had added that “operator-specific” changes have been implemented previously by vendors, in that modems have region-specific needs such as bands, power levels and dual SIMs, which involve hardware changes. “Given the scale of the Indian market in terms of number of (mobile) connections and growth rate, the initial development cost of making these modifications is modest as it will get amortised very quickly.”

Also read, DoT forms committee to devise strategy for 5G, 5Gi.

Global standards allow economies of scale, helping in bringing down the gear cost, which is not possible with locally developed standards. CT Bureau

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