India now trains its guns on a 6G launch - but where are the 5G networks?

(Image credit: Raj N)

India's tryst with 5G networks due to delays on the spectrum auctions did not stop the telecom operators from testing equipment and getting ready for the imminent launch. However, a federal minister today added another intrigue to the narrative by suggesting that the country will deploy 6G technology by 2024. 

India's federal minister for communications Ashwini Vaishnaw claimed that required permissions had been given to scientists and engineers working on 6G technology so that the country can roll out these superior networks using indigenously developed hardware and software, thus reducing its reliance on expensive imports. 

There is a clear roadmap too

Indian media networks quoted the minister as saying that 6G development had already begun and would see the light-of-the-day in 2023-end or 2024. "We will have designed in India, telecom software for running the networks, manufactured in India telecom equipment, served in India telecom networks which can go global," he said.

However, what we are not sure is how quickly the government will facilitate the roll out of India's 5G network. Telecom providers had recently asked for more time to get their financial and technical specs in place. The minister confirmed that the telecom regulator (TRAI) would have spectrum auctions in the second half of 2022. 

Which effectively means that the federal government's ambitious plan of going live with 5G operations to coincide with India's 75th anniversary of Independence might have to be reworked. Earlier this month, TRAI extended the time allotted to telcos for 5G trials till March 2022.

Multiple challenges along the 5G route

However, it would be wrong to lay the blame for the delays on telecom providers as there is work pending from the federal government's side on spectrum availability. Since a big chunk of the spectrum is owned by defense and space research, TRAI has to start discussing how and where air waves could be freed up and auctioned. 

The federal Department of Telecommunications had approved 5G trials way back in May 2020 for dozen telecom companies, both domestic and foreign. We had Chinese firms such as  ZTE and Huawei that did not get approvals, due to New Delhi's political issues with China over a border skirmish between the two armies. 

Ever since the Sino-India relations got strained due to border tensions, companies doing business across the border also got impacted. India banned over 200 applications of Chinese origin and also cancelled various contracts given to Chinese companies.

The impact also trickled down on the 5G implementation in the country. While the Government hasn’t officially denied the Chinese players like Huawei and ZTE from participating in the 5G journey, however, the ground rules laid by the department don't support Chinese companies.

This has given Indian companies a chance to develop their technology or collaborate with global vendors like Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and Qualcomm etc to source their hardware. In the end, it augurs well with the Indian PMs mantra of “Self-Reliance.”

Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea had tied up with original equipment manufacturers and technology providers Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT, have been given the permission. Further, Reliance Jio had started conducted trials using their indigenous technology.

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Raj Narayan

A media veteran who turned a gadget lover fairly recently. An early adopter of Apple products, Raj has an insatiable curiosity for facts and figures which he puts to use in research. He engages in active sport and retreats to his farm during his spare time.