India unveils Bharat 6G vision document, launches 6G research and development testbed
Despite being very late in rolling out 5G [1.], without TSDSI’s 5Gi ITU-R standard, India is ONCE AGAIN talking up 6G. Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the new United Nations’ ITU area office and Innovation Centre on Wednesday and revealed the Bharat 6G Vision document and launched the 6G R&D Test Bed.
Note 1. Indian telecom service providers started to deploy 5G services in October 2022.
The Indian government’s Bharat 6G vision document was prepared by the Technology Innovation Group on 6G (TIG-6G), which was formed in November 2021 to build a roadmap and action plans for 6G in India, according to an official statement. Officials from Ministries/Departments, experts from research and development institutions, academia, standardisation bodies, telecom service providers, and business are among the members.
The 6G Test Bed will provide a platform for academic institutions, industry, start-ups, MSMEs, and industry, among others, to test and verify evolving ICT technologies.
The Bharat 6G Vision Document and 6G Test Bed, according to Centre, will create an enabling environment for innovation, capacity building, and faster technology adoption in India.
India PM Modi unveiling Bharat 6G vision document (Photo – PM Modi/YouTube)
“Today India is the fastest 5G rollout country in the world. In just 120 days, 5G has been rolled out in more than 125 cities. Today 5G services have reached about 350 districts of the country. Moreover, today we are talking about 6G only after six months of 5G rollout and this shows India’s confidence,” Modi said, according to a transcript of his address at the inauguration of a new ITU Area Office & Innovation Center in New Delhi. “Today we have also presented our vision document. This will become a major basis for 6G rollout in the next few years,” Modi added.
The Bharat 6G vision document foresees 6G services launched in India by the second or third quarter of 2024. That would enable India to move ahead from 5G services in just 2 short years. According to government sources, India’s 6G mission will be completed in two phases- 1] from 2023 to 2025 and 2] from 2026 to 2030.
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Light Reading: 5G war heats up between Airtel and Jio in India
The 5G war between India’s top two telcos, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, formally started this month, with both service providers launching their 5G plans.
While both Jio and Airtel launched 5G services in October last year, they have been offering free services to users with 5G-enabled devices. Jio launched the first 5G recharge plan in January this year. This was available to all 4G users with a base tariff plan of 239 Indian rupees (US$2.89) or more. As per this plan, Jio subscribers would need to pay an additional INR61 ($0.7) to upgrade to the 5G upgrade tariff plan, which also includes 6GB of data.
Jio followed this up by introducing the JioPlus postpaid plan for a family of four. It is available in two versions, one priced at INR399 ($4.82) for 75GB data and the other at INR699 ($8.45) for 100GB data. This plan may help Jio attract postpaid customers from Bharti Airtel and, especially, Vodafone Idea, which has yet to launch 5G services. Jio now offers 5G coverage in around 406 cities across the country and is aiming to cover the entire country by December 2023. Jio is the only Indian telco to have launched 5G standalone.
Jio and Airtel seem to be fighting for postpaid users. Around 95% of Jio’s 430 million subscriber base is using its prepaid packages and the company hopes to change this with the launch of 5G services. However, this is possible only if it can attract postpaid users of other telcos or move its prepaid users to postpaid. It is tougher for Jio to attract postpaid subscribers of other telcos because they are typically not as price-sensitive as prepaid users.
Airtel reacted to Jio’s offers by launching an unlimited 5G data plan with the aim to “inspire customers to explore the potential of the Airtel 5G Plus network.” However, Airtel’s 5G network is available in only 270 cities in India, while Jio offers 5G in 400+ cities.
Competition will intensify
Airtel has granted its postpaid subscribers and prepaid users who pay INR239 ($2.89) or more unlimited access to 5G data. It further lowered the entry-level tariff for postpaid family plans by launching a INR599 ($7.24) tariff and two other plans costing INR799 ($9.66) and INR998 ($12.07) as part of its all-in-one Airtel Black offering. While Jio’s family plan is cheaper than Airtel’s, it doesn’t include any OTT offering.
Airtel’s focus on postpaid customers is clear, given it recently increased base tariffs from INR99 ($1.19) to INR155 ($1.87) for prepaid customers.
While Airtel and Reliance Jio slug it out in the 5G market, India’s third-largest service provider, Vodafone Idea, is yet to launch 5G services in the country. The competition will possibly heat up further once Vodafone Idea joins the fray.
The coming few months will see the competition between Jio and Airtel for greater market share intensify, especially in the more lucrative enterprise segment.
Telecoms.com – India reiterates 6G launch plan, but it’s still just a vision
India’s big two telcos have indeed been making a lot of noise about the 5G rollout. Last week Reliance Jio made its latest 5G rollout announcement, declaring that it had added 34 more cities to its True 5G – that’s 5G standalone – footprint, taking the total to 365, and reiterating its goal of reaching every town in India by December. Bharti Airtel added Kolkata to its 5G Plus coverage area this week and is, in its own words, “well poised to cover every town and key rural area with 5G services by the end of March 2024.”
However, Vodafone Idea has yet to get off the mark with 5G and, as Light Reading points out, its rivals only began offering 5G plans this year. There’s still some way to go on 5G in India, despite apparently rapid rollouts. But the Indian government is undeterred.
“Although technically 6G does not exist today, it is already conceived as a much superior successor to the widely anticipated 5G,” reads the Department of Telecommunications’ Bharat 6G Vision statement.
It goes on to list the usual benefits of the next generation of mobile technology, including higher speeds enabling self-driving cars, smart homes and a heightened interplay between the digital and physical worlds.
“The global vision is to further transform connectivity to make big data analytics and holographic displays a norm when 6G technology is finally implemented in the 2030s,” it states, which sounds like a more realistic timeframe than 2030 itself, which – lest we forget – is only half a dozen years away.
India’s vision for 6G essentially aligns with that we are seeing emerge elsewhere in the world, albeit with itself at the centre of the action.
“India has the necessary wherewithal to drive the 6G wave globally and leverage this powerful force multiplier to transform itself into a leading global supplier of advanced, relevant, and affordable telecom systems and solutions,” the document reads. “Our primary focus must be on multi-platform next-generation networks like Dense optical networks, AI/ML on the air interface and for network optimization, tactile Internet, Intelligent network operation, Intelligent Reflective Surfaces, Efficient Low Earth Orbit satellites, High-altitude platform systems (HAPS), User-defined virtualized air interfaces, and the like.”
To cut to the chase, the concepts outlined in the Bharat 6G Vision document are much the same as those put forward by other global industry and standards bodies. All nations want to be in the vanguard of 6G development – ’twas ever thus – and India is no different.
It is making headway though, with the launch of its vision statement and its R&D testbed. Modi also noted that “very soon” the country will set up 100 new 5G labs to help in developing 5G applications, and pointed out that India’s 5G standards are part of global 5G rollouts and that the country will work with the ITU on the standardisation of future technologies.
“The Indian ITU Area office which has been launched today will also help us in creating the right environment for 6G,” Modi said.
It certainly will. But it’s probably not wise to bet on a 2030 6G launch in India, despite the PM’s confidence.
Ericsson reviewed various seminal 6G white papers across wireless industries, regional research partnerships and academia to give you the nine key takeaways from the 6G early research phase.
1. Sustainability goals will be crucial to 6G use case development
2. 6G will deliver extreme performance
3. 6G networks will offer sensing capabilities
4. 6G will support trillions of embeddable devices
5. Network resilience will be a key design element of 6G systems
6. 6G network architecture will be more adaptable and dynamic
Another Opinion on 6G:
6G is the upcoming sixth-generation cellular network technology that is currently in early development. One of the goals of 6G cellular technology is not just to deliver basic content faster to smartphones, like streaming video, but to create a cellular network capable of supporting real-time augmented reality, virtual reality, and a future Internet of Things (IoT) model where small smart devices are a ubiquitous presence in and outside of our homes.
When reading anything about 6G, especially the breathless and hype-laden announcements from telecommunications companies that emphasize how 6G will usher in the metaverse, a fusion of our physical and virtual lives, and so on, you should keep the “early” part of early development in mind.
Currently, there are no established 6G specifications or standards, let alone deployed 6G networks or devices. Even the most basic aspects of 6G development, like which specific frequencies the next generation cellular technology will rely on, are still being ironed out along with technical challenges like energy and heat dissipation demands of advanced 6G devices.
That said, we do have some idea what 6G will look like. Current cellular technology operates in the Megahertz (MHz) and the lower Gigahertz (GHz) frequency ranges. The portion of the radio spectrum under consideration and testing for 6G includes frequencies in the 30-300 Ghz range—also known as millimeter waves (mmWave) or Extremely High Frequency (EHF) radio—and the Terahertz (THz) frequency up to 3000 Ghz. The use of these frequencies will allow for data transmission well beyond the bandwidth capacity of current cellular technology.
In December of 2022, Qualcomm released a 6G development plan with 2030 as a projected rollout date for 6G tech. Ericsson’s 6G messaging echoes the early 2030s timeframe too, as do various interviews with telecom executives.
5G was first introduced in 2019. Four years later, there are still millions of cellular subscribers using 4G, and 5G is yet to have a fully realized coast-to-coast rollout. GSMA’s authoritative 2023 Mobile Economy report, for instance, indicates North American adoption rate of 5G is only 39%, with more than half of cellular subscribers still using 4G. By their projections, the North American 5G adoption rate will be 91% by 2030, meaning by the time 6G potentially arrives, there will still be 4G subscribers out there.
Given the current development timelines, you should expect a delivery arc similar to the 5G rollout. If you live in a major metropolitan area, there is a good chance you’ll be covered by early 6G networks around 2030. If you’re not in a major metropolitan area, it’s likely you’ll be waiting well into the 2030s for the 6G rollout.
So if we step away from the hype and look at the matter practically, it’s likely only a small percentage of people will be using 6G-based networks by 2030. But the bulk of North American subscribers, and certainly the majority of global subscribers, will still be on 5G networks.