India Playing Catch-up on Mobile Technology with the Launch of 'Bharat 6G Vision'

Six months after the launch of 5G, India is making a good progress in the rolling out of 5G networks. The leading operators Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are leading the charge by improving 5G coverage and coming up with innovative services and payment plans.

India is known as Bharat in Hindi, the official language of India. 'Bharat 6G Vision Statement' is available here [PDF]. The following is an extract from the executive summary:

During the last decade, more than 700 million Indians, representing 75% of both rural and urban adult population, became users of mobile and fixed broadband services. Broadband connectivity has transformed lives and livelihoods, particularly of the poor. During the last five years, India has also ramped up telecom equipment manufacturing and exports in a decisive move towards an Atmanirbhar Bharat. During this period, India has also made important contributions to global telecom standards to ensure that its dispersed rural population clusters are as well served as its urban population. The Low Mobility Large Cell rural use case proposed by India is now a mandatory requirement to be met by mobile communication technologies adopted as International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standards.

Communication technology is ever evolving, from the early days of fourth generation (4G), when the newfound gaming graphics bowled the world over, to the recent promise that 5G brings to us in terms of heightened connectivity. Today, as India embarks upon its own unique 5G journey, the global telecom sector has already initiated strides towards creating 6G or sixth-generation communication technology as the next big thing on the communication horizon. Despite being at a concept stage, 6G is already making waves with its promise of unified human-machine and machine-machine connectivity and offers a glimpse of what lies in store for the world as the next decade draws closer.

6G will build upon 5G technology and provide more reliable, ultra-low latency and affordable solutions with speeds almost 100 times faster than 5G to enhance and drive new communication applications. These technological advances will impact not just user experience but also transform economies and lives everywhere. It will very likely include intelligent network management and control, and integrated wireless sensing and communication while balancing the potential consequent carbon footprint with reduced energy consumption and a myriad of sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives.

With a Vision of 6G as of today, we need to take stock of where we are with the resources at our disposal and where we ought to be to ensure achievement of Mission 6G. Accordingly, India must focus on aligning its research on technologies in the coming decade that would bolster and propel the implementation of 6G in India in a highly customized manner. Hyperconnectivity and advanced user experience delivered by 6G will improve and enable access to required information, resources (both virtual and physical), and social services without constraints of time and physical location. The advent of 6G will significantly reduce differences in regional and social infrastructure and availability of economic opportunities and will thereby provide alternatives to rural exodus, mass urbanization, and its related problems.

To further explore the impact of 6G in India and to investigate how India can realise its Mission of becoming a global leader in this space, the Technology Innovations Group set up six task forces in India to explore the major pillars of the 6G Vision Technology Innovations Group, based on their deliberations on the complete 6G ecosystem, have recommended extensive research in mmWave and Terahertz communications, fiber-broadband, Tactile Internet and Remote Operations, multi-sensor manmachine interfaces and devices leveraging edge cloud computing resources. Well-placed headways into AI, Space-Terrestrial Integration, combined communication and sensing in (Sub) Terahertz bands, SoCs, and innovative solutions emanating from CoEs can further be accentuated by participation in and contribution to global standards forums and leveraging of the start-ups of today. All this and more can be achieved with a robust and much-needed Research & Development (R&D) funding mechanism.

India will identify priority areas for research by involving all stakeholders including industry, academia, and service providers, spanning theoretical and simulation studies, proof-of-concept prototypes and demonstrations, and early market interventions through start-ups, to take the lead. To accomplish the end-state of smart traffic management, virtual reality (VR)/ virtual navigation, smart and highly accurate environmental monitoring, and other fantastical promises of 6G, India will launch a 6G Mission that holistically combines all associated technologies, supported by an adequate financial backup. The Mission can be divided into two phases – the first being the ideation phase to understand the inherent potential and risk associated with the pathways ahead and test proof-of-concept implementations, while the second phase will be dedicated to conceptualizing and delivering potential technology solutions to serve India and the global community. While the basic objective for India will be a customised 6G implementation plan, acceptance and support from the global community can fast forward our commercialization drive and pave the way for further newer technologies.

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. 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. Further, initiatives into investigating and implementing methods to standardize such technology and devices can provide additional structure and foresight to our 6G roadmap and assist us in efficiently allocating resources to ensure that India becomes a key role player in 6G technology implementation and adoption.

In conclusion, we expect that 6G will play an important role in filling the gap in the provisioning of e-services for urban and rural populations, help in the achievement of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and contribute tremendously towards improving the quality and opportunities of life. These will embody innovations that specifically address the country’s needs and improve the productivity of its people, particularly of those in rural areas for whom telecommunications is critical to overcoming the tyranny of distance. These technologies will also provide immense opportunities for India’s entrepreneurs to innovate and develop new products based on their Intellectual Property (IP) not just for the Indian market but also for the entire world, transforming India into a global leader providing life and livelihood-transforming solutions.

Many other countries already have a head start on 6G, some of these have been documented in section 4 of the document but many others are missing. It would be interesting to see how India takes the right steps to ensure that they don't miss out on the 6G benefits, if there are any.

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