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6G: How India is gearing up for this game-changer

What is 6G, and how will it be superior to 5G technology?

After 5G, the sixth generation or 6G is the next generation telecom network that will be built upon 5G technology, providing 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 user experience and transform economies and lives everywhere. It will include intelligent network management and control, and integrated wireless sensing and communication. It is expected to push the boundaries of communication technology by ushering in bandwidths of 1Tbps, which will be 100x that of 5G. It can potentially revolutionise the way people interact with other humans, machines, and data.

What are the key features of the 6G vision document of the government?

The ‘Bharat 6G Vision’ document recently released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to create a national mission for 6G having a nine-year tenure (2022-2031), with funding in three tranches – Phase-1 for the first four years and Phase-2 for Years 4-7 and Phase-3 for years 7-9. The mission’s purpose will be to catalyse — coordination and interactions between various stakeholders in Centre and State governments as well as with industry and academia. The fundamental and applied research for 6G technologies is to create a new IP, knowledge, and skilling. The pilot scale demonstration and validation of these technologies in field trials for various use cases, and participation and contribution to national and international standards is expected from 2025 onwards.

Is India trying to gain leadership in 6G by moving fast on this?

Despite being at a concept stage, 6G is already making waves with its promise of unified human-machine and machine-to-machine connectivity. It offers a glimpse of what lies in store as the next decade draws closer. According to Minister of Communications and IT, Ashwini Vaishnaw, India has recently secured more than 127 patents on 6G from global institutions and countries like the US are keen have technology from India. So, it shows that India is serious about the latest technologies and already geared up for the next generation of telecommunications, even while the country is rolling out 5G in limited areas. 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. Also, with a global focus on its telecom and digital industries, India is advocating for a stronger role in ongoing legislation at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), including a new global vision for 6G and international satellite communications standards.

What are the new technologies that will benefit from the 6G rollout?

Roll out of 6G would benefit omnichannel experiences in all sectors because of its hyperconnectivity, giving everyone an advanced user experience. It will improve and enable access to required information, resources (both virtual and physical), and social services without constraints of time and physical location.

For instance, in Education sector, it can enable students to experience industry interactions and virtual visits to gain knowledge via immersive experiences. Whether it is education, agriculture or healthcare, the use of AI/ML will play in big role.

Also, Quantum technologies are being explored to understand their potential for unprecedented performance in quantum sensing, communication, security and computing. Apart from spectrum in various bands, a seamless integrated optical and wireless network, with wireless fiber-like segments wherever appropriate, is imperative. Sufficient attention must be paid to GPON network engineering in rural areas. With the increasing cost-effectiveness of Low Earth Orbit satellites and new technologies such as HAPS, non-terrestrial wireless networks will likely get integrated with the terrestrial network to offer ubiquitous coverage not only on ships and aircraft but also in rural areas underserved by the terrestrial network in the Indian context.

What will be the role of the apex council in 6G implementation?

The role of the Apex Council is to see a collaborative effort from the government, industry, telecom service providers (TSPs), academia, research institutions have synergies to innovate, standardise, run pilots, manufacture, test and supply at a global scale. Its job is to evaluate, and approve roadmaps and action plans for 6G.

Which companies are getting ready for 6G?

Apart from major TSPs like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone-Idea and State-owned BSNL/ MTNL, there could be new players jumping in regarding 6G, just like Adani Network entered into the space through the last year’s telecom spectrum auctions. The vision report says that enterprise use of 5G, 5G+ and 6G services will be mainstream. The spectrum vision needs to be expanded to make spectrum available across the bands and for various use-cases. Assigning spectrum to private captive networks, including coexistence bands, is necessary.

What does the move towards 6G mean for consumers?

Hyper-connectivity and better experience delivered by 6G mobile communication technology will improve and enable access to required information, resources (both virtual and physical), and social services without time constraints. Broad deployment of 6G technology will reduce differences in regional and social infrastructure and economic opportunities providing alternatives to rural exodus and metro-driven urbanisation. The start of 6G will play an important role in filling the gap in the e-services availability between urban and rural communities, thereby improving people’s lives.