UK-India research project to progress 5G and future telecom networks
The UK-India Future Networks Initiative (UKI-FNI) is a£1.4 million project, led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with other UK and Indian universities. Its objective is to build the capability, capacity, and relationships between the two countries in telecoms diversification technologies and research for 5G and beyond. The project will explore hardware and software solutions for future digital networks, as well as develop a joint UK/India vision for Beyond 5G and 5G. The development of Open Radio Access Networks (OpenRAN) will be a key part of the project.
The project is funded by the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The 5G/6G Innovation Centre (5G/6GIC) at the University of Surrey in the UK will play a key role in a project to examine advanced technologies for future digital telecoms networks. The 5G/6GIC will work with the University of East Anglia (project lead), University College London and the University of Southampton in the UK; and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science in (IIS) Bangalore.
The 5G vision of the Centre includes:
- Indoors and outdoors
- Dense urban centres with capacity challenges
- Sparse rural locations where coverage is the main challenge
- Places with existing infrastructure, and areas where there is none
India has an excellent research and innovation base in networking systems software and has the complex testbeds required for proving new technologies. Indeed, under a previous £20 million EPSRC initiative led in the UK by Prof Parr (the India-UK Advanced Technology Centre), the team collaborated for more than 10 years with partners across India – an experience that will be leveraged in the UKI-FNI project.
Prof Parr said: “To those of us who have access to telecommunications services and the Internet, it comes as no surprise how reliant we are on voice, data and web services for email, video conferencing and file sharing, as well as social media for business and personal needs. This has been much more visible during the Covid pandemic. For the telecoms service providers there are important considerations in providing all these systems across regions and nations, including performance, cyber security, energy efficiency, scalability and operational costs for maintenance and upgrades.”
“The consideration on costs is attracting increasing attention when we consider the limited number of global vendors who manufacture and supply the systems over which our data flows across the national and international networks.”
There is a global push to explore innovations that will deliver the infrastructure, systems and services for next-generation mobile communication networks. Part of this drive is coming from network operators who are seeking solutions to reduce the costs for network components by aiming to remove dependence and lock-in to a small group of telecom original equipment manufacturers.
A leading idea is that the 5G infrastructure should be far more demand/user/device centric with the agility to marshal network/spectrum resources to deliver “always sufficient” data rate and low latency to give the users the perception of infinite capacity. This offers a route to much higher-performing networks and a far more predictable quality of experience that is essential for an infrastructure that is to support an expanding digital economy and connected society.
Sanjeev K Varshney, Head of International Cooperation at the DST, said: “The announcement of the India-UK partnership to develop newer research opportunities in future telecom networks is very timely and we look forward to developing new bilateral collaboration in this and other emerging areas of mutual interest.”
Rebecca Fairbairn, Director UKRI India, said: “UKRI India, in collaboration with our partner funders in India, is delighted to announce a drive towards a new Indo-UK research and innovation partnership on future telecom networks.
“Bringing together both our countries’ scientists, engineers, and innovators we will jointly develop new knowledge and high-impact research and innovation in line with our shared 2030 India-UK roadmap.”
Professor Gerard Parr, Principal Investigator for UKI-FNI, University of East Anglia, said: “There are many benefits to be accrued from the UKI-FNI project as we explore new innovative solutions in hardware, software and protocols.
“Ultimately, we will develop a roadmap for a much larger, mutually beneficial and longer-term collaboration between India and the UK in the important digital telecoms sector.”
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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reportedly informed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that it is likely to submit 5G pricing recommendations in March. If things go as planned, India will hold its repeatedly delayed 5G auction in July-August 2022.
Despite the buzz around 5G, telecom companies, along with private players, are only conducting 5G trials in the country.
Bharti Airtel has successfully conducted India’s first 5G trial in the 700 MHz band in partnership with Nokia, on the outskirts of Kolkata.
Earlier last year, Airtel demonstrated India’s first 5G experience over a live 4G network. It also demonstrated India’s first rural 5G trial as well as the first Cloud gaming experience on 5G.
Reliance Jio is another leading player in the field of 5G testing technology. The company has successfully conducted trials of connected drones on its indigenous 5G network. According to Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), India must complete the migration from 2G to 4G to 5G at the earliest and the rollout of 5G should be India’s national priority.
Jio says it has developed a 100 per cent home-grown and comprehensive 5G solution, which is fully Cloud native and digitally managed.
“Because of its converged, future-proof architecture, Jio’s network could be quickly and seamlessly upgraded from 4G to 5G,” according to Ambani.
Nokia and Vodafone Idea have also partnered to trial 5G services using E-band in areas where fibre is challenging to deploy.
Vodafone Idea is currently conducting 5G trials in India using the trial spectrum in the 3.3GHz-3.6GHz band and mmWave band (24.25GHz-28.5GHz). Earlier, Vodafone Idea had achieved peak speed of over 3.7 Gbps during its 5G trials in Pune.
The DoT had approved applications of Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and MTNL for 5G trials.
The 5G technology will represent around 39 per cent of mobile subscriptions in India at the end of 2027, estimated at about 500 million subscriptions, according to an Ericsson report.
STL, formerly Sterlite Technologies, is in the process of conducting early trials for setting up private telecom networks and small-scale networking solutions. The company is currently conducting lab trials for various international telecom players, reported ET.
Lab trials are already underway in Australia, Taiwan and in the UK while the company is concurrently undertaking trials for wireless 5G services in the US, Japan and India, said Managing Director Ankit Agarwal to ET. Agarwal added that field trials will commence once lab trials are completed, and deployment is expected next year.
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