Jio and Airtel against 5Gi standard; 2 GHz of mid-band needed for India 5G demand

Indian telecom operators have informed the India Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that the so-called Indian component of the ITU 5G RAN recommendation M.2150 (Low Mobility Large Cell/LMLC or 5Gi), doesn’t have a device ecosystem and it should only be considered as optional and non-mandatory for the telecom industry.  They said that making the 5Gi standard mandatory would increase prices of smartphones.


TSDSI’s 5G Radio Interface Technology, referred to as LMLC or “5Gi” cleared the rigorous processes of  International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and has been approved by ITU-R WP 5D and then ITU-R SG5 as a part of Draft Recommendation M.[IMT-2020.SPECS] in its meeting held on 23rd November 2020.  That recommendation was approved by ITU-R as recommendation M.2150 early this year.

5Gi, the first  ever Mobile Radio Interface Technology contribution from India to become part of ITU-R’s  IMT recommendation, went through a rigorous evaluation process of the ITU-R working groups over the past 3 years before getting the approval.

This standard is a major breakthrough for bridging the rural-urban digital divide in 5G deployment due to enhanced coverage. It enables connecting majority of India’s villages through towers located at gram panchayats in a cost effective manner. It has found support from several countries as it addresses their regional needs from a 5G standpoint.

Indian telcos, vendors and chipmakers met the DoT Secretary last week for stakeholder consultation on the 5G ecosystem. The meeting was also attended by members from academia, ICEA, TSDSI, CDoT and chipmakers.

During the meeting, an Airtel representative told the secretary that 5Gi is not globally harmonized and will lead to costly devices and delays in rollout.

Reliance Jio representative also urged the department to avoid mandating any requirements for consumer devices for spectrum, features etc., as they are market driven. “No minimum technology specifications approach for 5G devices,” the company said as per the minutes of meetings accessed by ET.

COAI, which represents telcos and telecom equipment vendors, told the department that 5Gi doesn’t have a device ecosystem and efforts to be made as part of 3GPP [1.].

Note 1. That is a false assertion as TSDSI, which is a member of 3GPP, presented its 5Gi/LMLC to ITU WP 5D as a Radio Interface Technology (RIT) for IMT 2020. After numerous contributions and tests, it was accepted as an integral part of ITU-R recommendation M.2150.  LMLC was not contributed to 3GPP for inclusion in their 5G Releases 15 and 16.


“There will be implications if there is a separate handset production line for India which then can increase prices. We have sought clarification. It is claimed that there will be minor tweaks in handsets,” COAI director general S P Kochhar told ET.

Bharti Airtel once again raised the device ecosystem related issue with the department and said that 5G devices are required to support in all licensed bands auctioned in India including 2100 MHz, 1800 MHz in both standalone and non-standalone 5G modes.

“Handsets must support NSA Carrier Aggregation and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing in FDD and TDD spectrum bands,” Airtel said, adding that devices should also be capable of transmitting “26 dBm” both in NSA and SA modes.

Telecom operators reiterated the need for affordable 5G handsets to drive the uptake of high-speed service upon commercial availability. The cheapest 5G device is currently available at Rs 15,000 but only supports N78 band or the mid-band.

During the meeting, the COAI said that 5G standards should support both consumers, industry, and the Indian government must play a facilitating role.

“We are most happy if the local 5G standard is globally harmonized.  Globalization will help in lowering the cost of devices and achieving scale. It will also make India an export hub for 5G handsets. Harmonization with 3GPP is crucial even as there is substantial progress for 5Gi with the ITU,” Kochhar said.

Responding to ET’s queries, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director IIT Madras, former Chair-TSDSI and Chief proponent of 5Gi said that 5G handsets require only minor firmware and software changes to become 5G+5Gi handsets, which will not lead to any increase in costs as confirmed by some handset solution providers and operators.

“Even earlier, “operator specific” changes have been implemented by the vendors – example – modems have region specific requirements such as bands, power levels and Dual SIM which involve hardware changes. Also, given the scale of the Indian market in terms of no. of connections and growth rate, the initial development cost of making these modifications, modest as it is, will get amortized very quickly,” Ramamurthi added.

“We should not see a situation where the industry is stuck. If 5Gi gets harmonized then it is a win-win situation. Otherwise the cost to the subscriber will be high,” Kochhar added.

The Jio representative also supported the technology neutral approach for 5G and suggested that India’s government must make efforts for global harmonization of 5Gi standards by making it part of 3GPP [2].

Note 2.  This assertion is also completely wrong. 3GPP is NOT a standards body.  All of their specs must be transposed by it’s member standards bodies (e.g. ETSI, ATIS, etc) or ITU-R to be considered as standards.  TSDSI took their 5Gi/LMLC directly to ITU-R WP-5D which accepted it as part of the first official 5G RAN standard-  ITU-R M.2150. Any harmonization of 5G standards must occur in ITU-R WP-5D and NOT 3GPP.


Samsung, which is the sole 4G equipment provider for Jio and India’s second largest smartphone brand, also supported telcos’ demand for a harmonized 5Gi standard during the meeting.

Both Jio and Airtel reiterated their demand for lowering the reserve price for 5G spectrum.

“Current pricing of mid-band spectrum is unrealistic,” Jio said, supporting the need to seek the reserve price from TRAI for all 5G spectrum bands for auction with a clear request that the reserve price be kept reasonable in order to meet the 5G proliferation goals.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will seek a fresh base price from the telecom regulator for the 3300-3750 MHz as well as floor prices for other bands that can support 5G.


Jio also urged the department to make available 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum to meet the demands of 2025-2030 timeframe. Airtel, on the other hand, asked the government to auction spectrum in mmWave band along with mid band and 600 MHz band and earmark them for 5G.

Jio has also asked the India DoT to identify and incorporate in NFAP [3] the entire C band 3.3-4.2 GHz, mmWave 24.25-29.5 Ghz, 37 GHz along with E and V bands.

Note 3. The NFAP is a central policy roadmap that defines future spectrum usage by all bodies in India, including DoT, the Department of Space and the defense ministry.


Closing Comment:

It’s very disappointing that after all of TSDSI’s efforts to get 5Gi/LMLC included in the 1st official IMT 2020 RIT/SRIT standard (ITU-R M.2150) they couldn’t convince India telecom carriers or global equipment/chip vendors to endorse 5Gi/LMLC.



Reliance jio: Jio joins Airtel in fight against 5Gi standard; says 2 GHz in mid-band needed for India 5G demand, Telecom News, ET Telecom (

IMT 2020.SPECS approved by ITU-R but may not meet 5G performance requirements; no 5G frequencies (revision of M.1036); 5G non-radio aspects not included

India’s TSDSI candidate IMT 2020 RIT with Low Mobility Large Cell (LMLC) for rural coverage of 5G services

India’s Success in 5G Standards; IIT Hyderabad & WiSig Networks Initiatives

TSDSI’s 5G Radio Interface spec advances to final step of IMT-2020.SPECS standard

Reliance Jio claim: Complete 5G solution from scratch with 100% home grown technologies

Executive Summary: IMT-2020.SPECS defined, submission status, and 3GPP’s RIT submissions


7 thoughts on “Jio and Airtel against 5Gi standard; 2 GHz of mid-band needed for India 5G demand

  1. Alan continues to provide deep insights into India’s state of Telecom affairs particularly related to 5G technology, standards, regulations, carriers, etc.
    TSDSI should be commended for diligently developing and obtaining ITU-R IMT 2020 approvals for its LMLC specifications, an appealing proposition for India’s rural environment. I, for one, do not see any downside in embracing and implementing LMLC within India. Seemingly, the Indian carriers have a disproportionate influence on the country’s 5G direction and implementation.

  2. Why India Should Push Aside 5Gi in Favor of a More Accepted Standard (I do not agree!)

    The 5Gi standard, which has been making rounds in numerous news headlines, has been developed jointly by IIT Madras and IIT Hyderabad on the recommendation of the Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI). Post the development of this new standard, the TSDSI has also gone ahead and obtained approval for this new standard from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU-R). Now a lot rests on the shoulder of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in India, as it has the reins to decide whether the telecom companies will have to follow the 5Gi or the more globally accepted 5G standard based on 3GPP levels.

    If we are to throw our two cents into the debate, then despite the multiple advantages of the 5Gi standards, some of which are being touted as more coverage as compared to the 3GPP one, the cons will far outweigh the cons. There is already the debate among smartphone manufacturers about which bands they will have to support in the Indian smartphones for 5G standards. A lot of smartphone manufacturers have shown concern that if they have to support multiple bands, then it would drive the smartphone prices upwards.

    The same could happen for the telecom companies and subscribers as well. A more complicated 5Gi standard would mean that the telecom companies would have to configure their equipment in tune with the new standards, and likely the smartphones would have to come equipped with the supporting technology. This would not only entail rising prices in the deployment of the 5G technology, which is already slated to be expensive in the country. But, it would also mean that the subscribers would have to wait more for something that the other part of the world already has access to.

    In such a situation, the DoT and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) should work in tandem to create a robust environment for more and more testing to use cases across verticals like healthcare, education, and enterprise development. As a senior Nokia executive pointed out a few weeks back, the real use of 5G is much ahead of simply reducing latency and increasing throughput. Similarly, coming up with new domestic standards which are not compatible with the global ones is simply innovating for the sake of innovating while keeping the industry’s development on the sidelines.

    1. Thanks for that assessment. I also do not agree with it. The author of this article got it all wrong! 5Gi or LMLC is to enlarge the coverage area of the 5G RAN to ensure wider coverage in rural areas- like villages in India.

      5Gi has been thoroughly tested by ITU-R WP 5D independent evaluation groups and passed all ITU-R performance requirements for 5G/IMT 2020. Hence, we firmly suggest that the India DoT and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India mandate the implementation of 5Gi in India.

  3. “Though there were aggressively priced 5G model launches in 2Q21, most shipments were 4G. Nevertheless, it is still months away from 5G to become mainstream, underlining the importance of spectrum availability, clear use cases, and ensuring a cohesive future-ready infrastructure led by telcos,” said Upasana Joshi, Associate Research Manager, Client Devices, IDC India.

  4. 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.

    1. While this article may represent the views 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). There are no standards for 5G non-radio aspects.
      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?

  5. Telcos, Vendors, 5G and the great Indian media plugs By Seema Singh in BFO #354, 23 Aug, 21

    India recently allowed 5G trials. It is “encouraging” (not mandating) telecom operators to use 5Gi, a superset with Indian contribution. Initially, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel were in opposing camps. In the last fortnight, they’ve come to stand on the same side.

    Global telecom vendors, on whom telcos rely not just for technology but also tech guidance, say 5Gi is not compatible with 5G. Indian tech developers say it is. Vendors say it’ll increase the cost; the Indian teams say it won’t.

    This battle of wits and ego is playing out in business papers.

    Incidentally, the official tech blog of the IEEE Communications Society points out the errors in the ET article, which is only a summary of the letter submitted to the DoT. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organisation. The blog’s closing remarks sums up the issue well:

    “It’s very disappointing that after all of TSDSI’s efforts to get 5Gi/LMLC included in the 1st official IMT 2020 RIT/SRIT standard (International Telecommunication Union-R M.2150) they couldn’t convince India telecom carriers or global equipment/chip vendors to endorse 5Gi/LMLC.”

    The second-order effect of this weary, media-facilitated tussle to deny Indian tech specifications in the global body 3GPP—which negotiates features for every generation of telecom—can be significant. For one, it sends the message to the Indian team that ‘slow down, your time has not come’. It’s fair to argue that following this experience, few academics in the country would want to push the envelope in areas dominated by tech giants. As it is, Indian academia is full of people who like to play safe and just publish papers to keep their tenure and promotions in order.

    Secondly, if getting to the negotiating table is so hard for the big boys of telecom and the modestly equipped Indian team, then the forthcoming 6G negotiations at the ITU and 3GPP would get tougher. Even more mistrustful. For the government, 5Gi is too high-tech and too low-priority in the larger scheme of things. There may be no champion for this in the government, but it is incumbent upon the leadership to bring closure to the 5Gi wrangle, one way or another. Trial by media is certainly not the right way.

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