India’s Success in 5G Standards; IIT Hyderabad & WiSig Networks Initiatives
by Prof. Kiran Kuchi, PhD & Dean of Research at Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad (IITH) -edited by Alan J Weissberger, ScD EE
The development of 5G happens through a global forum called the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). It’s a partnership between seven global Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) of which Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI) is a member. 3GPP kickstarted the 5G project in 2016 where we made substantial contributions to three successive releases of 5G specifications to date. IITH primarily led the efforts with significant support from CEWiT, IITM, and other Indian corporations (Tejas Networks and Reliance Jio are our major industry partners) with well over 300 technical documents submitted to date.
These sustained efforts led to the incorporation of several innovations introduced into the global 5G standards. One significant contribution that stands out is the introduction of a new transmit waveform, the only new waveform that is adopted in 5G, which is a generational change.
Both 4G and 5G adopted a waveform technology called OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) that is quite suitable for the downlink transmission (that is the link between a base station (BS) and user equipment (UE)) but not so well suitable for the reverse link (that is the link between UE and BS). The limitations of OFDM owes to low-power efficiency (of about 10%). Prof Kuchi has designed a new waveform called “pi/2 BPSK with spectrum shaping” that provides close to 100% power efficiency and yet retains all the other advantages offered by OFDM.
This new transmit waveform allows the power amplifier in the UE to operate near its saturation level thus delivering a 3-4fold increase in the transmission power, and a hardware cost similar to that of OFDM. The overall gain in the cell range compared to OFDM will be at least twofold, hence this became a driver behind the design of the large cell 5G concept.
This indigenous waveform technology is developed for over a decade and is covered by a family of patents developed by IITH and CEWiT. There are well over 100 patents filed by IITH and WiSig to date. These patents will likely become the backbone of our indigenous 5G ecosystem. India’s 5G at ITU There are two parallel tracks that India took during the 5G development. The first effort is the aforementioned contributions to the 3GPP-based 5G standard, and our second noteworthy contribution is through TSDSI and the ITU (International Telecommunication Union). The second effort is led by IITM on the ITU front with significant backing and support from IITH, CEWiT (and Indian Industry such as Tejas networks, Reliance Jio).
ITU is a United Nations body that specifies requirements and radio standards for 5G known generically as IMT 2020. ITU-R WP5D had adopted India’s proposed Low-Mobility-Large-Cell (LMLC) use case as a mandatory 5G requirement in 2017. This requirement was adopted by ITU-R WP5D mainly as a result of sustained effort by the Indian entities through the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to address the unique Indian rural broadband deployment scenario. Several countries supported this use case as they saw a similar need in their jurisdictions as well. TSDSI took this opportunity to develop the so-called LMLC based 5G technology that is a modification of 3GPP-based 5G specification.
This indigenously developed standard designated as 5Gi will deliver ultra-fast, low-latency mobile internet and next-generation IoT services in both cellular and mm-wave spectral bands that are common to all 5G candidate standards and adds “pi/2 BPSK with spectrum shaping waveform” as a mandatory technological enhancement that can provide broadband connectivity to rural users using ultra-long range cell sites.
This enhancement will ensure that 100% of India’s villages are covered from towers located at panchayat villages, whereas nearly a third of such villages would be out of coverage otherwise. Both 5G and 5Gi are fully compatible and interoperable systems that are being leveraged for the upcoming deployments in India. Adoption of the LMLC based 5G standards in India will enable India to leap forward in the 5G space, with key innovations introduced by Indian entities accepted as part of global wireless standards for the first time. The nation stands to gain enormously both in achieving the required 5G penetration in rural and urban areas as well as in nurturing the nascent Indian R&D ecosystem to make a global impact. The current national efforts are aligned with the national digital communication policy that promotes innovation, equipment design, and manufacturing out of India for the world market.
MeitY has been funding our wireless research for the past 10 years and these efforts have led to the development of larger wireless programs. More recently, the DoT (India Dept of Telecom) has sanctioned the “Indigenous 5G Testbed” program with a project outlay of 224 crores to IITH, IITM, CEWiT, IITK, IITB, IISc, and SAMEER.
This 3-year program, already close to completion, started yielding results in the form of prototype base stations, CPE/UE and NB-IoT chipsets. IITH stands out with major contributions to key 5G technologies such as cloud RAN base station with massive MIMO capability and cellular NB-IoT chipset for connecting sensors and meters to the internet. We are gearing towards full-fledged demonstration and field trials.
An upcoming player in the 5G space WiSig Networks (WiSig) is a 5G start-up incubated at the IITH tech incubator (i-tic foundation). WiSig has developed a 5G radio access network (5G-RAN) based on an emerging technology called O-RAN (Open-Radio-Access Network), that is being touted as the next major disruptor in the 5G landscape. This technology allows rapid deployment of low-cost, software upgradable 5G base stations in significantly higher volumes and larger densities than the current 4G network.
O-RAN is a disaggregated 4G/5G base station based on open interfaces and general purpose hardware. It is being defined by the O-RAN alliance, TIP Open RAN project and ONF SD-RAN v1.0 Software Platform for Open RAN.
Some operators have initiated the deployment of O-RAN based software-defined network and virtualization networks that enable self-organization, low operational cost and ease of introduction of new features and service upgrades. New 5G use cases can be introduced rapidly on the fly using software upgrades as opposed to costly and time-consuming hardware development cycles. WiSig has created commercial grade IP in this space and is well on track to carry out one of India’s first O-RAN compliant demonstrations of a software defined 5G massive MIMO base station. Overall, WiSig is well on its path to deliver 5G RAN intellectual property components to the global 5G supply chain.
LMLC based 5G technology is a modification of 3GPP-based 5G New Radio (NR) specification. This indigenously developed LMLC ITU-R standard, designated as 5Gi, will deliver ultra-fast, low-latency mobile internet and next-generation IoT services in both cellular and mm-wave spectral bands that are common to all 5G candidate standards and adds “pi/2 BPSK with spectrum shaping waveform” as a mandatory technological enhancement that can provide broadband connectivity to rural users using ultra-long range cell sites.
In contrast to high-speed mobile broadband, a vast number of IoT applications requires few bits to be exchanged with the internet intermittently. The key considerations of these kind of IoT devices are that they are ultra-low-cost and have a long battery life – up to 10 years. Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) (Belongs to the 5G family of technologies is well suited for this purpose and is quietly emerging as a killer application for lowbit rate IoT applications. IITH and WiSig joined hands in commercializing a NB-IoT SoC (System on a Chip) that was successfully taped out in Q1 2021.
The chip is named “Koala” after an animal indigenous to Australia that sleeps about 20 hours a day – typical behavior of the NB-IoT modem.
Given that this is the first time a standards compliant cellular modem is designed in India and that both the software and hardware that goes into the chip is developed indigenously, this chip should preferably be leveraged to serve the security needs of critical national IoT infrastructure.
In summary, the investments made by Meity and DoT on 5G research have started to bear fruit in delivering the basic technological components and sub-systems required to build 5G. The time is ripe for the Government to nurture domestic design and manufacturing of 5G equipment. The country has enough talent and the technological depth required to support a domestic 5G ecosystem. With the right kind of policy support, then India is likely to see a 5G/IoT domestic manufacturing revolution within this decade. IITH will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the 5G ecosystem not only in India but globally as well.
About Kiran Kumar Kuchi, PhD:
Kiran is a Professor Department of Electrical Engineering IIT-Hyderabad (IITH) and Dean of Research. He also started WiSig Networks that has been incubated at IITH. He received PhD and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, TX. His current projects include: Cloud radio, Heterogeneous networks (HeNets), Next generation wireless test-bed development.
5 thoughts on “India’s Success in 5G Standards; IIT Hyderabad & WiSig Networks Initiatives”
Beijing has expressed deep concerns over India’s new telecom policy that does not permit Chinese telecommunication equipment companies (e.g. Huawei and ZTE) to conduct 5G trials in the country, saying the move is not conducive to the innovation and development of related Indian industries.
On Tuesday, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) granted approval to nearly a dozen companies to conduct a six-month trial for use and applications of 5G technology. The telecom service providers (TSPs) included Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, Vodafone Idea Ltd and MTNL who have made deals with original equipment manufacturers and technology providers which are Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT.
There was no Chinese company — Huawei or ZTE — in the list that have been operating in India for several years.
Wang Xiaojian, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India, said in a statement that China expresses “concern and regret that Chinese telecommunications companies have not been permitted to conduct 5G trials with Indian Telecom Service Providers in India.”
“Relevant Chinese companies have been operating in India for years, providing mass job opportunities and making contribution to India’s infrastructure construction in telecommunications,” Xiaojian said.
“To exclude Chinese telecommunications companies from the trials will not only harm their legitimate rights and interests, but also hinder the improvement of the Indian business environment, which is not conducive to the innovation and development of related Indian industries”.
Like the US and the UK, there have been demands from the industry stakeholders like the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) to ban Huawei and ZTE Corporation of China from participating in 5G network rollout in India.
Xiaojian said that China hopes that “India could do more to enhance mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries, and provide an open, fair, just, and non-discriminatory investment and business environment for market entities from all countries, including China, to operate and invest in India”
India’s much delayed 5G trials could hit a fresh snag, with Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea (Vi) saying they don’t have any clarity on whether the coveted millimetre wave bands (26 GHz and 28 GHz) – allotted for trials – will be auctioned in the next spectrum sale.
The telecom operators said they cannot spend time, effort and money to developing 5G use cases around these mmWave bands, unless the government commits to their commercial allotment at affordable rates as well. They called upon the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to revise the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP-2021) to include these vital mmWave band airwaves, which will give the carriers clarity before they start trials.
SP Kochhar, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), told ET that “a reminder has just been sent to DoT that the revised NFAP has still not been finalised by its Wireless Planning & Coordination wing even after various meetings of the working groups were held and inputs provided by all stakeholders”.
The COAI represents Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vi and global network vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia.
Bharti Airtel, Jio and Vi did not respond to ET’s queries till press time.
Though DoT earlier this month allowed telcos to conduct 5G trials on multiple spectrum bands, including mmWaves, the latter does not find a place in the current NFAP.
If mmWave bands do not figure in the revised NFAP-2021, industry executives said 5G deployment costs would jump manifold and make the ultra-fast wireless broadband service unaffordable to consumers in India. They said mmWave bands such as 26 GHz and 28 GHz offer lightning fast data rates above 2 Gbps and huge capacity, which are critical for running 5G use cases cost-effectively, and also since the bulk of the global 5G devices ecosystem is evolving around these bands.
Telcos are being given experimental airwaves in mid-band (3.2-3.67 GHz), sub-GHz (700/800 MHz) and mmWave bands (26-28 GHz) to run 5G trials for six months. So far, only mid-band spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz bands has been earmarked by the government for 5G services.
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“Only after mmWaves are included in the revised NFAP, can DoT give a reference to Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to examine and start fresh consultations on all bands identified for 5G, relook at their pricing and make fresh recommendations for the next auction,” said a senior industry executive, who did not wish to be identified.
Unless this happens soon, the next auction could get pushed back by another 12-18 months, said the executive, and telcos will not see any business case in investing heavily in 5G network trials and developing India-relevant use cases, especially if there is no certainty around the commercial availability of crucial mmWave 5G spectrum.
The revised NFAP-2021 will outline available airwave bands and services for which they can be used, including mobile broadband communications, defence, satellite operations under the Department of Space and also to meet the needs of the aviation, information and broadcasting, railways and home ministries.
“It’s essential the revised NFAP document is finalised and issued at the earliest by DoT as it will earmark spectrum for various usages in the country,” said Kochhar.
DoT favors price cut for 5G, 700MHz bands
The DoT is also likely to shortly seek a fresh base price for the 3300 MHz-3600 MHz band earmarked for 5G, the 700 MHz band, and other new bands which can be used for the next-gen technology. Following this, Trai will need to start a fresh consultation process for arriving at the prices. The regulator usually cuts prices of unsold spectrum.
Why Airtel, Vi and phone makers are opposing India’s 5Gi technology
Indian telecom majors like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea (Vi), mobile handset makers and chipset companies are opposing the 5Gi standard technology, calling it “risky.” These companies have jointly submitted a report to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) requesting the Telecommunications Engineering Centre (TEC) to conduct theoretical and field level validation of performance gains of 5Gi.
They have listed multiple reasons on why 5Gi is not the ideal standard for India in the report, according to Economic Times.
Zero assessment of 5Gi is among the reasons cited in the report. With no clarity on established gains of 5Gi, any changes in the global 5G standard needs to be based on significant gains in cost and performance, the report said.
They claim that if there is a change or modification of global 3GPP standard, it must be based on significant gains in cost, performance, and network efficiencies. There is no such proven track record when it comes to 5Gi, whereas the existing 5G technology supports 3GPP standard and has been acceptable in over 150 countries worldwide, it added.
The 3GPP standard has evolved over decades and generations of commercial mobile systems. It defines specifications for complete end-to-end cellular systems, including user equipment (or devices), radio access, core network and service framework for mobile telecommunication.
Another point mentioned by the telecom operators is that the 5Gi radio and the 3GPP 5G radio are non-interoperable. In simpler terms, it means handsets on 3GPP will not work with 5Gi based infrastructure and vice versa. Another setback is international travellers carrying 3GPP-based 5G smartphones will not be able to use roaming services when they are in India. Indians traveling abroad will also be unable to use roaming services.
Smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, Xiaomi and a dozen others will need to make specific hardware changes to their phones in India only as these phones will need to comply with 5Gi based specifications and would entail additional costs for these makers, resulting in higher landing costs for consumers.
Finally, their report states, 5Gi cannot work on 4G and 6G networks, resulting in no scope for future releases or new features.
While this article may represent of large India telecom players, it is utterly inaccurate:
1. The global standard for 5G RAN is ITU-R M.2150 (formerly known as IMT 2020).
2. 3GPP is NOT a standards body. There specs have no official standing and must be transposed, approved, and published by a recognized standards body, like ITU-R or ETSI.
3. 5Gi (AKA 5G LMLC) is not contained in ANY 3GPP specification. It was submitted by TSDSI to ITU-R WP5D, where it was approved after several independent evaluation group tests.
4. In addition to 3GPP 5G NR (release 15 & 16) and 5Gi/LMLC in the existing M.2150 recommendation, there are two more 5G RITs/SRITs that are being seriously considered by ITU-R WP 5D for a revision of M.2150. One is from DECT/ETST and the other from Nufront (China). They will both likely be progressed at next week’s virtual meeting of ITU-R WP 5D (Aug 23 -27, 2021).
—–>Will the major India telecom players be against those too?
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