India may Merge Local Standard with Global One for 5G Rollout

India’s local 5G standard, 5Gi, is likely to be merged with the global standard for the fifth generation mobile network technology under a “compromise formula” between the industry and indigenous standard proponents, said people aware of the matter.

The development comes after opposition to the local standard even from the Department of Telecommunications’ technical arm, Telecommunication Engineering Centre. “In a meeting last week, the TEC opposed the idea of a new (local) standard due to technology fragmentation and interoperability challenges. Now, the 5Gi and 3GPP 5G merger, as part of a compromise arrangement, has been worked out which is likely to get a go-ahead from the international standards body,” a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

The participating organisations, as per an industry executive, agreed on an arrangement that would facilitate the merger between 5Gi and 3GPP, and the new merged standards are expected to be accepted by 3GPP early this week. The 3GPP or the third-generation partnership project is a global initiative that provides standards and specifications on telecommunications technologies. The 5Gi and 3GPP-5G merger is a milestone and will be a key enabler to achieve high-speed, high quality connectivity for all as 5G gets rolled out in India and the rest of the world, said a senior official of India’s standards body. The 5G Radio Interface Technology, called 5Gi, is an initiative of the Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India, together with the academia, whose merger plan with the global 5G standards, will now be submitted to the International Telecommunication Union and TEC.

The merger initiative, spearheaded by the US-based chipset maker Qualcomm, following intense pushback from the industry led by multinational vendors such as Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and China’s Huawei, has been led in the country by the Cellular Operators Association of India, which represents Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea. The COAI opposed the national standard, arguing that the 5Gi ecosystem is yet to be developed, validated and tested, and would result in technology fragmentation. In a series of letters to the telecom department, COAI said that any mandate to such standard may put the consumer at a burden since sufficient options are not available for device ecosystem, and would put an additional burden to telecom carriers that may lead to a further delay in rolling out 5G in the country.

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