India’s Narendra Modi is sticking by his aim of launching 6G services in the country by 2030, despite the fact that 5G is only six months old.
To that end the prime minister on Wednesday presented a new 6G roadmap, known as Bharat 6G Vision, and launched a 6G R&D testbed, amongst other initiatives designed to assist with India’s digital transformation.
But while Modi is naturally upbeat about his country’s position on the global technology stage, it’s hard to see past the political bluster and the lessons of the past. And there’s nothing in the vision document that we haven’t seen before.
“Today India is the fastest 5G rollout country in the world. In just 120 days, 5G has been rolled out in more than 125 cities. Today 5G services have reached about 350 districts of the country. Moreover, today we are talking about 6G only after six months of 5G rollout and this shows India’s confidence,” Modi said, according to a transcript of his address at the inauguration of a new ITU Area Office & Innovation Center in New Delhi.
“Today we have also presented our vision document. This will become a major basis for 6G rollout in the next few years,” Modi said.
The PM’s optimism is laudable, but his confidence is arguably misplaced, and there’s a lot of hype in his address.
India’s big two telcos have indeed been making a lot of noise about the 5G rollout. Last week Reliance Jio made its latest 5G rollout announcement, declaring that it had added 34 more cities to its True 5G – that’s 5G standalone – footprint, taking the total to 365, and reiterating its goal of reaching every town in India by December. Bharti Airtel added Kolkata to its 5G Plus coverage area this week and is, in its own words, “well poised to cover every town and key rural area with 5G services by the end of March 2024.”
However, Vodafone Idea has yet to get off the mark with 5G and, as Light Reading points out, its rivals only began offering 5G plans this year. There’s still some way to go on 5G in India, despite apparently rapid rollouts. But the Indian government is undeterred.
“Although technically 6G does not exist today, it is already conceived as a much superior successor to the widely anticipated 5G,” reads the Department of Telecommunications’ Bharat 6G Vision statement.
It goes on to list the usual benefits of the next generation of mobile technology, including higher speeds enabling self-driving cars, smart homes and a heightened interplay between the digital and physical worlds.
“The global vision is to further transform connectivity to make big data analytics and holographic displays a norm when 6G technology is finally implemented in the 2030s,” it states, which sounds like a more realistic timeframe than 2030 itself, which – lest we forget – is only half a dozen years away.
India’s vision for 6G essentially aligns with that we are seeing emerge elsewhere in the world, albeit with itself at the centre of the action.
“India has the necessary wherewithal to drive the 6G wave globally and leverage this powerful force multiplier to transform itself into a leading global supplier of advanced, relevant, and affordable telecom systems and solutions,” the document reads. “Our primary focus must be on multi-platform next-generation networks like Dense optical networks, AI/ML on the air interface and for network optimization, tactile Internet, Intelligent network operation, Intelligent Reflective Surfaces, Efficient Low Earth Orbit satellites, High-altitude platform systems (HAPS), User-defined virtualized air interfaces, and the like.”
To cut to the chase, the concepts outlined in the Bharat 6G Vision document are much the same as those put forward by other global industry and standards bodies. All nations want to be in the vanguard of 6G development – ’twas ever thus – and India is no different.
It is making headway though, with the launch of its vision statement and its R&D testbed. Modi also noted that “very soon” the country will set up 100 new 5G labs to help in developing 5G applications, and pointed out that India’s 5G standards are part of global 5G rollouts and that the country will work with the ITU on the standardisation of future technologies.
“The Indian ITU Area office which has been launched today will also help us in creating the right environment for 6G,” Modi said.
It certainly will. But it’s probably not wise to bet on a 2030 6G launch in India, despite the PM’s confidence.
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