Local Ecosystem to Propel India to Have Robust 6G by 2030 - Chief of Country’s First 5G Testbed

© Photo : IIT Madras / Bhaskar Ramamurthi, key architect of India's first 5G testbedProf. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Chief of India's 5G testbed
Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Chief of India's 5G testbed - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.05.2022
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated India's first 5G testbed to the nation, enabling start-ups and industries to validate their products locally, thereby curbing dependency on foreign facilities.
India has set up the 5G testbed to expedite the manufacturing of 5G-enabled products and applications.
The government has yet to auction the 5G spectrum to telecom service providers. However, it is confident about a year-end rollout.
Sputnik spoke with Professor Bhaskar Ramamurthi, the key architect of the 5G testbed, about its development and significance for the digital economy.
Sputnik: How significant is the testbed in transforming the 5G ecosystem across the country?
Bhaskar Ramamurthi: In 2018, the federal government announced the project with the allocation of $29 million to build a complete end-to-end 5-G testbed in the country. This was to be undertaken by eight institutions in the country.
We started building the testbed in 2018, but we struggled through the pandemic because the project was happening at several places in the country. Now, the testbed is fully developed and running at five locations.
Apart from just a phone or using telephony and internet access, 5G has many more uses. There is a lot of internet of things (IoT), machine-to-machine communication, vehicular communication, and the medical and education sector.
So, many start-ups and companies are building new products and new applications. Their products and applications have to work appropriately in the actual network. How will they test? How will they debug? For that, you need a testbed.
Finding a testbed is not easy. You may have to go abroad. We developed one testbed in India so that any start-up or company developing new products and applications can thoroughly test, validate, and prove that their product works before going to their commercial operators or market.
Sputnik: What are the prospects for 5G-based products and applications in India?
Bhaskar Ramamurthi: We hope that next year or in the next two years, we will enable a vast ecosystem in the country of start-ups and of companies. The Department of Telecommunications recently concluded a hackathon in which 30 winners were announced to develop India-centric 5G products and applications.
The testbed is not only an evolved lab-based system but is now evolved as a deployable system because we ensure that whatever we developed is actually deployable, and technology can be transferred to industries for manufacturing.
We believe that we will have a fully indigenous 5G network in the country very soon.
Sputnik: There is some cut-throat competition among global tech giants to acquire a large 5G hardware market. Do you believe India is able to manufacture its own 5G equipment?
Bhaskar Ramamurthi: Already for the network side, we have developed 5G equipment. In this project, we have developed a lot more things related to 5G; we are licensing them.
Other firms have developed 5G equipment in the country. So on the equipment side, we have the capability, but we still do not have an indigenous phone. We manufacture, but the design is not from here.
Sputnik: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that by the end of this decade, India will rollout 6G services, an ambitious timeline given the delay in the 5G rollout. How much confidence do you have in this timeline?
Bhaskar Ramamurthi: More than 3,00 young engineers, many of them just recent college graduates, and over 40 scientists have built the 5G testbed. So we have built an enormous human capacity in 5G technology.
I believe they will be the people who will develop some parts of 6G technology as well. This will be a way to evolve a magnificent 5G ecosystem in the country, leading to, by the time we reach 2028-2030, a robust 6G ecosystem where India is one of the leading countries that contribute to the future of telecom technologies.
Sputnik: There are some concerns about foreign firms attaching snooping devices to advanced tech equipment. India imports most of its high-end equipment. Can a testbed be used to identify any snooping device in any gear?
Bhaskar Ramamurthi: The Testbed is not the right platform to identify snooping devices attached to any hardware. That’s a security issue. You need a separate kind of testing facility for that.
Sputnik: Are you working to develop such a platform?
Bhaskar Ramamurthi: We are not working on this project. There are other groups that are working in the country to identify such snooping devices in imported hardware but not this testbed.
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