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“Creating Alignment in the 5G Ecosystem” a USIBC webinar

The theme for the 45th US-India Business Council’s webinar, organized by US Chamber of Commerce on June 29, 2020 was Creating Alignment in the 5G Ecosystem.

With Rajan Mathews, DG, COAI coordinating, the panel comprised of senior business leaders with impressive credentials, who as expected made powerful presentations.

Ajit Pai, Chairman, FCC
“As always, it’s great to be with the USIBC. You were one of the first groups I spoke to as FCC Chairman back in early 2017. At that meeting, I said that the partnership between the United States and India will be the defining one of the 21st century. Over the past three-plus years, it’s been gratifying to see the bonds between the U.S. and India grow stronger and stronger.

We saw the vitality of this special friendship on full display this past February. I was honored and humbled to be a part of the U.S. delegation visiting India. From my bilateral visits with my counterparts in the Indian government to the state banquet at Rashtrapati Bhavan and conversations with Prime Minister Modi, the energy and excitement was incredible. The trip left me with an even deeper appreciation of the common values our countries share and an even stronger determination to help bring the world’s oldest and largest democracies even closer together.

The United States and India share not only a set of common values. We also share strategic interests. We are both deeply committed to harnessing the power of communications technology to promote mutual growth and prosperity for our people. And we both deeply value the importance of connecting all of our citizens. That means, in part, unlocking the power and potential of 5G technology.

I commend the USIBC for launching this Webinar series on 5G, and I appreciate the opportunity to be the first speaker of the first session.

I’ve been asked to begin with an update on the FCC’s efforts to promote the development and deployment of 5G. This is something we’ve spent quite some time on, to say the least.

We call our strategy the 5G FAST plan, and it has three key components: freeing up spectrum, promoting wireless infrastructure, and modernizing regulations to encourage fiber deployment.

With respect to spectrum, the Commission has left no stone unturned in its quest to make a mix of low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum available for 5G services. Earlier this year, we concluded an auction of 3,400 megahertz of spectrum in the upper 37, 39 and 47 GHz bands, the most spectrum ever won in a single auction. In 2019, we auctioned 850 megahertz in the 28 GHz band, and 700 megahertz in the 24 GHz band. Combined, these three auctions made available almost five gigahertz of high-band spectrum for commercial use. To put that in perspective, that is more spectrum than was used for terrestrial mobile broadband by all wireless service providers in the United States combined before these auctions started.

Lately, our focus has been on mid-band spectrum, which is appealing for 5G because it combines good geographic coverage with good capacity. We’ve got a lot of efforts moving forward on this front—too many for me to cover—but the one I would highlight is our work on the so-called C-band. The C-band is a 500-megahertz swath of spectrum from 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz. It’s mostly used by fixed-satellite companies to beam content to video and audio broadcasters, cable systems, and other content distributors.

Four months ago, the FCC voted to clear the lower 280 megahertz of the C-band and make this spectrum available for flexible use. To that end, we’ll begin a public auction this coming December 8. All eligible space station operators currently using this spectrum have committed to an accelerated relocation to the upper 200 megahertz of this band—meaning that the lower 280 megahertz (and a 20-megahertz guard band) will become available for 5G two to four years earlier than otherwise would have been the case.

In addition to pushing more spectrum out in the marketplace, we continue to clear regulatory hurdles and promote infrastructure build-out. This has spurred record-breaking capital investments in infrastructure essential for 5G, including fiber-optic cables and small cells.

Now, when we say we want to accelerate the deployment of 5G, we’re effectively saying that we want high-speed, high-throughput mobile connectivity to be available to everyone, everywhere. But 5G isn’t the only technology with the power to create this world of ubiquitous wireless gigabit connectivity. While many new technologies are emerging, such as high-throughput GEO and LEO satellite systems as well as ATSC 3.0, our biggest initiative of late involved Wi-Fi—specifically, our decision to make available the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use.

Wi-Fi already carries more than half of the Internet’s traffic. And offloading mobile data traffic to Wi-Fi was vital to keeping our cellular networks from being overwhelmed over the past few months. The exciting news is that Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of Wi-Fi, has already started rolling out. Wi-Fi 6 will be over two-and-a-half times faster than the current standard, and it will offer better performance for connected devices. But in order to fully take advantage of the benefits of Wi-Fi 6, we need to make more mid-band spectrum available for unlicensed use.

And that’s exactly what the FCC did on April 23. The Commission unanimously approved my proposal to make the entire 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use. By doing this, we are creating a massive 1200-megahertz testbed for innovators and innovation. This is a big deal. We’ve effectively increased the amount of mid-band spectrum available for Wi-Fi by almost a factor of five.

All 1,200 megahertz of this spectrum will be available for indoor-only low-power use without the added complexity of database coordination. We are also making the two largest sub-band segments, totaling 850 megahertz, available for use indoors and outdoors at a higher standard power. We’ll use an automated frequency coordination system to prevent interference with incumbent services. Going big means allowing unprecedented use. To put that in perspective, that is more spectrum than was used for terrestrial mobile broadband by all wireless service providers in the United States combined before these auctions started.

Lately, our focus has been on mid-band spectrum, which is appealing for 5G because it combines good geographic coverage with good capacity. We’ve got a lot of efforts moving forward on this front—too many for me to cover—but the one I would highlight is our work on the so-called C-band. The C-band is a 500-megahertz swath of spectrum from 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz. It’s mostly used by fixed-satellite companies to beam content to video and audio broadcasters, cable systems, and other content distributors.

Four months ago, the FCC voted to clear the lower 280 megahertz of the C-band and make this spectrum available for flexible use. To that end, we’ll begin a public auction this coming December 8. All eligible space station operators currently using this spectrum have committed to an accelerated relocation to the upper 200 megahertz of this band—meaning that the lower 280 megahertz (and a 20-megahertz guard band) will become available for 5G two to four years earlier than otherwise would have been the case.

In addition to pushing more spectrum out in the marketplace, we continue to clear regulatory hurdles and promote infrastructure build-out. This has spurred record-breaking capital investments in infrastructure essential for 5G, including fiber-optic cables and small cells.

Now, when we say we want to accelerate the deployment of 5G, we’re effectively saying that we want high-speed, high-throughput mobile connectivity to be available to everyone, everywhere. But 5G isn’t the only technology with the power to create this world of ubiquitous wireless gigabit connectivity. While many new technologies are emerging, such as high-throughput GEO and LEO satellite systems as well as ATSC 3.0, our biggest initiative of late involved Wi-Fi—specifically, our decision to make available the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use.

Wi-Fi already carries more than half of the Internet’s traffic. And offloading mobile data traffic to Wi-Fi was vital to keeping our cellular networks from being overwhelmed over the past few months. The exciting news is that Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of Wi-Fi, has already started rolling out. Wi-Fi 6 will be over two-and-a-half times faster than the current standard, and it will offer better performance for connected devices. But in order to fully take advantage of the benefits of Wi-Fi 6, we need to make more mid-band spectrum available for unlicensed use.

And that’s exactly what the FCC did on April 23. The Commission unanimously approved my proposal to make the entire 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use. By doing this, we are creating a massive 1200-megahertz testbed for innovators and innovation. This is a big deal. We’ve effectively increased the amount of mid-band spectrum available for Wi-Fi by almost a factor of five.

All 1,200 megahertz of this spectrum will be available for indoor-only low-power use without the added complexity of database coordination. We are also making the two largest sub-band segments, totaling 850 megahertz, available for use indoors and outdoors at a higher standard power. We’ll use an automated frequency coordination system to prevent interference with incumbent services. Going big means allowing unprecedented 160- and 320-megahertz channels for Wi-Fi. This will dramatically ease spectrum capacity as a constraint on innovation and open the door to new high-bandwidth applications.

Ultimately, I expect that 6 GHz unlicensed devices will become a part of consumers’ everyday lives. And I predict the rules we adopted in April will play a major role in the growth of the Internet of Things, connecting appliances, machines, meters, wearables, smart televisions, and other consumer electronics, as well as industrial sensors for manufacturing.

During my visit to India in February, I had a good discussion with Indian officials about our 6 GHz efforts, so I know that India is interested in exploring the possibilities of unlicensed use in this band. I’m eager to work with my Indian counterparts and other leaders around the world to harness the benefits of the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi and then work together toward global harmonization of this spectrum.

Ultimately, I think Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will complement each other nicely and form a powerful 1-2 punch of licensed and unlicensed innovation.

To this point, I’ve talked about how everybody wants next-generation wireless networks that are ultra-fast, high-capacity, and widely available. One more thing we’ll demand of tomorrow’s networks is that they must be secure. When 5G is embedded in almost every aspect of our society and economy—from businesses to homes, hospitals to transportation networks, manufacturing to the power grid—that means securing our networks will become much more important and much more difficult. An important part of network security is the integrity of the communications supply chain—that is, the process by which products and services are manufactured, distributed, sold, and ultimately integrated into our communications networks.

For years, U.S. government officials have expressed concern about the national security threats posed by certain foreign communications equipment providers. Hidden “backdoors” to our networks in routers, switches, and other network equipment can allow hostile foreign powers to inject viruses and other malware, steal Americans’ private data, spy on U.S. companies, and more.

The equipment at the heart of 5G networks currently comes from just a few global suppliers. And the largest right now is the Chinese company Huawei. This has raised concerns, given that Chinese law requires all companies subject to its jurisdiction to comply with requests from the country’s intelligence services, and bars disclosure of these requests to any third parties.

To counter this risk, the FCC has prohibited the use of money from our Universal Service Fund to purchase or obtain any equipment or services produced or provided by companies posing a national security threat. We have also initiated a process to catalog, remove, and replace unsecure equipment from USF-funded communications networks. We’ve denied authorization to China Mobile to enter the U.S. market. And we’ve issued show-cause orders to Chinese state-owned companies that already had received such authorizations. Finally, Congress recently passed, and the President signed the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act to further strengthen the integrity of communications networks and the communications supply chain. On July 16, the FCC will vote to start the process for implementing that law.

I’m not the only panelist who believes that, when it comes to 5G, we cannot afford to make risky choices and just hope for the best. Under Mathew Oommen’s leadership, Reliance Jio will not be using Huawei’s equipment in its 5G networks. I applaud Mathew for his leadership on this issue. The more that allies in the United States and India can work together and make security decisions based on shared principles, the safer that our 5G networks will be.

On that note, I’ll wrap it up. Thanks again to USIBC for convening this forum. I look forward to today’s discussion and to working with you in the days ahead to seize the opportunities of 5G and expand digital opportunity across the United States and India.

Rajen Vagadia, Vice President & President, Qualcomm India & SAARC
“The knowledge coming from the US on 5G is very useful. There is growing proximity between India and US, and it’s interesting to see India exporting handsets to the US and going forward, we see the transfer of knowledge and expertise on network side from the US to India, it’s going to be two-way transactions in this relationship.

India is not looking at 5G only for cellular networks, the background work which is happening currently is immense, in terms of architecture planning particularly and covers a large spectrum of possibilities, even despite that the 5G auctions are yet nowhere in the horizon.

Qualcomm has been in India since 26 years. We understand India fairly deep and have a large presence in India. I am confident that as and when the frequencies are available in India, we will have the devices ready. We are fully equipped and I do not see any challenges as and when the spectrum is available in India.”

I am very bullish about the capabilities in India because it is a domain of expertise for many of us on the Indian side, in terms of how we can bring software technology to bear rather than just very high capital intensive hardware technology.”

Shekhar Iyer, Executive Vice President, VMware
“What fascinates us is around the software insertion, the programmability of the architecture and the ability to now create policy-based infrastructure that allows us for tremendous multiplication as well as secure transmission, maybe add new services on top of this network. So whether it is the operator core network that we have helped virtualize with many of the operators globally, including our partners from Reliance or it is now the radio network that is in the process of being disaggregated, opened up with technologies that is opening the RAN infrastructure. It is fascinating to see that concepts like network slicing are going to enable us to transmit and receive information at both, not just different rates and paces and latencies but also with qualities of services and the ability and capability to attach themselves to different service constraints as well as service capabilities.

To me, that feels like the internet and web in the mid-late 80’s, where we are just contemplating on what this new medium is about to present us. I applaud all of us, collectively in our ability to take advantage of this and ensure that is taking the maximum possible benefit of the programmability of the architecture.

This is a lot more than just spectrum. If you think of all about compute network, storage, management, security capacity attached to that, it will give you a sense for what is actually possible.

I am very bullish about the capabilities in India because it is a domain of expertise for many of us on the Indian side, in terms of how we can bring software technology to bear rather than just very high capital intensive hardware technology.”

Mathew OommenPresident, Reliance-Jio
“A couple of days ago, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, that the need is for a secure and progressive digital and telecom transformation. He also mentioned the role of companies like Reliance Jio to play. In what I would call for an emerging new digital world for clean telcos. He mentioned the words clean telcos and a clean digital infrastructure.

Chairman Pai referred on how we can ensure and do not contaminate the digital infrastructure and make sure that there is no digital pandemic, that can infect the digital infrastructure and fabric of any nation or its people. And that is where one of the technology’s frameworks that Chairman Pai talked about and referenced quite a bit in the US is the O-RAN and also the recent, ORPC for policy. I can assure you, that at Reliance, we are already trialing an O-RAN-centric solutions. And we look at O-RAN-centric solutions broken into hardware, software, systems of intelligence and systems of security. And that, system of security is what we do not see, where 5G is only perceived as a radio technology.

This is actually an opportunity for us to build a new age, secure, digital society where 5G, AI, cloud, IoT, and devices are orchestrated together to deliver an open, distributed network and services, as a platform.

Security for us, is not what we brute force but is inherently embedded at every component, starting from chipsets to 5G as an end-to-end solution.”

Rajan Mathews. “3GPP and 5G for the first time has standards embedded in the entire process of standardisation. So why are we saying, that in a 5G world, if security is embedded for the first time in the standards through the 3GPP process, there is still a continuous risk?”

Mathew Oommen. “There is no risk in 3GPP. I believe the question here is, how do we ensure that there are no Trojan and/or there are no embedded, insecure nets in the technology that we put into 5G?

We are connecting everything, and everyone, and every industry.  That means, the entire digital economy runs, whether it is the energy grid, healthcare grid, defence grid, the induvidual company grid, everything, runs on the new age of connectivity and hence, security is no longer just a 3GPP framework.

Security is an end-to-end  framework, from chipsets to hardware to software to AI to cloud etc. No longer, looking at it from the prism of 3GPP, would allow us to deliver security. And that is why, when Chairman Pai and Secretary Mike Pompeo highlight clean telcos and complete digital infrastructure, we completely hear them. And it is paramount, as Chairman Pai said, as two successful and large democracies, there is no other alignment between two large nations, to create the scale. For what India brings to the table, is the scale. We already have more than 4 million radio heads in the country. That scale brings the innovation, the performance and the security as well.”

Dr. Anand Agarwal, Group CEO, STL 
“For us, at STL we are creating a fully converged ecosystem, which is focused more on the edge, along with compute capabilities. On one end, we have full expertise on the optical ecosystem, including active devices based on virtualization, and at the same time we have created a full partner space radio ecosystem with radio design manufacturing as well as CU/DU, which are fully aligned on virtualization as well as the O-RAN ecosystem. We have done investments in this and in collaboration with academia as well as ecosystem partnerships. What we are essentially doing, on one end, we have an optical capability and on the other end, we are developing the full radio capability, fully based on O-RAN certification and we are integrating that end-to-end conversed network with edge compute and edge storage capabilities.

We believe these are the solutions that we will need forward toward offering the clean digital infrastructure and what clean telcos would require.

With that capability, with the software capability that India has, as Mathew articulately mentioned, from chipsets to hardware to software to AI to cloud, we are completely creating that ecosystem with industry partnerships, which includes Qualcomm and VMware as well as customer partnerships, which includes Jio, academia partners which includes IIT, Chennai. This is the opportunity for India to take the leap and we are ready for that leap!

-CT Bureau

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