Vodafone Idea to use 5Gi (ITU M.2150-LMLC) in trials

Vodafone Idea (Vi) is working with a “few companies” to prepare for trials using India’s own 5G standard 5Gi, which is included in ITU-R M.2150 as 5G Radio Interface Technology (RIT) for LMLC- Low Mobility Large Cell. The third largest telco in India said that once the telecom equipment is ready, it will conduct trials using the 5G LMLC technology.

“We are already working with a few companies. As and when the product is ready, we will be keen and will be doing trials and deploy accordingly” Jagbir Singh, chief technology officer (CTO) of Vi said on Friday. He didn’t divulge details of the partners are.

5Gi is currently being evaluated by India’s Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC) for commercial adoption in India.  Experts believe that 5Gi is a better option for setting up rural connectivity as it is cost-effective, improves spectral efficiency, and reduces spectrum wastage of up to 11 per cent compared to its global counterpart — the 3GPP approved 5G standard. However, existing telecom operators and equipment vendors are not in favor of adopting the local standard as they say 5Gi is yet to show any of these performance gains at a commercial scale.

Vodafone Idea has partnered with L&T Smart World and Communications, Athornet, Vizzbee Robotics, Tweek labs, Athonet, Nokia and Erricson to provide enterprise solutions.  Arvind Nevatia, Chief Enterprise Officer, Vodafone Idea, also said that Vi will be looking to partner with other enterprises now that they have been granted a six month extension on 5G trials.

Vi has been allocated 26 GHz and 3.5 GHz spectrum in the mmWave band by the DoT, for 5G network trials and use cases. Vi has achieved peak speeds in excess of 1.5 Gbps on 3.5 GHz, more than 4.2 Gbps on 26 GHz and up to 9.8 Gbps on backhaul spectrum of E-bands.

Indian telcos, network equipment and chipset vendors along with handset have opposed the incorporation of 5Gi as a national standard citing compatibility issues with 3GPP’s global 5G standard, which has already been adopted globally for commercial live networks. Telcos had urged the Department of Telecom (DoT) and the TEC to merge 5Gi with 3GPP’s global 5G NR spec to achieve scale and bring down costs, but that has not happened yet.

“We follow the 3gpp standards (they are specs- not standards– and have no official standing) for the core network…along with the firewalls. We are going to ensure whatever we do for our IT and network platform specific for the core data protection policy in coordination with 3GPP. Network slicing ensures data protection for each enterprise…all customers are equally protected in terms of security,” he added.

On Friday, Vodafone Idea (Vi) demonstrated some of the 5G technology solutions and use cases as a part of its ongoing 5G trials on government allocated 5G spectrum in Pune, Maharashtra and Gujarat. These tests come at a time when the three rivals -Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio. and Vi are trying to keep pace with each other in the race towards next generation technology.

Singh added that Vi has 30-35% fiber for backhaul for its wireless network, which it is increasing in urban areas. “5G will be a combination of fiber and E band.”

The company is now preparing to expand the scope of 5G trials and is in talks with its and is in talks with its existing customers and startups. Rival Airtel became the first telco to test 5G technology in the 700Mhz band on Thursday.  The telco will be working with start-ups for more use cases.

“We were not aware that we will be getting an extension for trials till 3-4 weeks back. We were not doing that on a very high intensity basis, but now with the clarity we will restart the process of engagement,” Arvind Nevatia, Chief enterprise business officer, Vi.

The telco highlighted new revenue models, as a result of 5G. “What we are seeing is evolving models from fixed commission basis to subscription models whether it is in the consumer space or the SAAS space , a lot of new revenue models are emerging in the country…. ,” said Nevatia.

However, prices of 5G have been a contentious issue between the sector and the government. Chief regulatory officer P Balaji said the decision will be taken by the government, which is setting up the auction process process including consultation on prices with the regulator.

“We see Vodafone Idea as an active partner in the digital vision of the government and as India develops its own 5G plans , we will be happy to participate”, said Balaji.

The current base price of Rs 492 crore for a unit of 5G spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band has been deemed too expensive by all three Indian telcos.

Many experts believe that adoption of the ITU-R M.2150 5Gi standard in India by the government will enable India to leap-frog 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 global impact. TSDSI’s efforts are aligned with the national digital communication policy that promotes innovation, equipment design and manufacturing out of India for the world market. The TSDSI 5G standard also has the potential to make a significant impact in several countries with poor rural broadband wireless coverage. TSDSI remains committed to the development of globally harmonized 5G standards with substantial innovations to address hitherto neglected needs of countries such as India.  TSDSI-RIT is a step in the right direction so that our indigenous technologies for rural coverage and connectivity find their rightful place in the 5G eco-system that will be deployed in India and elsewhere.

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