India’s indigenously developed 4G and 5G stack — built by a consortium of C-DoT, Bharat Sanchar Nigam and Tata Consultancy Services — is attracting attention in global markets with queries coming from European countries.
Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, explaining the new push towards exports, said that within three years, India will “get a leadership position in telecom technology”. He added: “We have got enquiries from European countries on the 4G and 5G stack built by the consortium led by C-Dot. There are Indian companies which are already exporting telecom equipment.”
One of the companies is VVDN Technologies.
Analysts say the reason for the interest is that the stack has been built at a fraction of the cost of global telecom gear players and has been tested in one of the most complex telecom markets in the world.
The move is significant given the context of US-China tensions after the former banned Chinese telecom majors Huawei and ZTE from selling their equipment in the US owing to fears of spying, a fear that prompted many countries in Europe and Asia to ban them too.
Currently, 4G and 5Gg technology and its equipment is controlled by a few countries, namely Nokia and Ericsson in Europe and Samsung in South Korea. The Chinese have developed advanced 5G technology which they have deployed — China has the largest 5G subscriber base and also the highest coverage, ahead of the US.
India clearly is positioning itself as an alternative destination for telecom technology and work is also going to begin on 6G.
The effort to build an indigenous stack emanated from a government decision to use only indigenous technology for rolling out the much delayed 4G network as well as the 5G services of Bharat Sanchar Nigam. An earlier RFP inviting a global tender was scrapped after opposition from domestic telecom gear makers.
After various twists and turns and demonstration of ‘proof of concept’, the contract to roll out 4G services was awarded to the consortium led by C-Dot which is expected to happen in a few months. The 5G roll out is expected by next year’s Independence Day.
Apart from building the 4G stack and the radio, C-DOT has completed work on the crucial indigenously designed 5G non-standalone core. This hardware is independent, unlike global telecom gear makers where telcos are locked into proprietary technology.
C-Dot is also working on building an indigenous standalone core to power 5G services. The other projects are building the telco grade 5G radio and a 5G radio access network which will provide telcos flexibility to buy software and hardware from an array of vendors, reducing their costs.
Global vendors like Nokia and Ericsson have been selling both proprietary hardware and software integrated into one which does not give users any flexibility.
Tata Consultancy Services, which can play a key role in being an integrator (software and hardware) for building the telecom network, has acquired Tejas Software which has manufacturing facilities for telecom hardware.
Even Reliance Jio has developed its own 5G core as well as radios and has publicly stated that it will also export this technology.
It has tied up with global ODM player Sanmina to manufacture some of the 5G radios in their JV plant in the country. But it has also given contracts for rolling out its 5G networks to the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.
A top company executive explained Reliance Jio’s strategy by saying it has end-to-end 5G technology which includes the core, the radios, and the software.
“But this does not mean,” he said, “that we will not go with other vendors (foreign telecom gear companies) as this gives us huge bargaining power and reduces our dependence on others. We also keep abreast of the latest global technology. We will roll out 5G in some circles with our own technology stack.” Business Standard