After playing catch-up with the rest of the world in the adoption of 2G, 3G and 4G technologies, the Indian government wants the country to be an early adopter of 5G, which is expected to be commercially rolled out by 2020.
A research team commissioned by the government to work on 5G technology has already filed 100 patents so far — of which around 10 have already been granted.
5G is the fifth generation of wireless networks which are expected to offer not just more speed for end users and also have the capacity to connect the billions of devices like driverless cars and household appliances which will connect to the internet in the near future.
“We are scaling up fast and switching gears because 5G is just around the corner,” said Kiran Kuchi, a professor at the department of electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Hyderabad. Kuchi, who is part of the team which includes researchers from the IISc Bangalore, IIT Bombay, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Madras and CEWiT (Centre of Excellence in Wireless Technology, IIT Madras) added that they expect to file a lot more patents in the next few years.
Most of these patents have been filed simultaneously in the US and in India. Apart from the government, private stakeholders such as the newest telecom service provider Reliance Jio along with Tata Teleservices and Tejas Networks and a host of startups are partnering in the effort by lending their manpower and equipment. “This is the first time that India has contributed at this level on the global stage. This is a coherent, long-term and a result-oriented project,” said Kuchi.
“The fact that we are trying to take so many patents into the global 5G standards will benefit the Indian industry hugely,” added Kuchi.
The research project, which was commissioned by the ministry of electronics and IT, was approved in September 2015 with an outlay of Rs. 36.51crore over a period of three years.
The research team will also jointly develop advanced simulators and technology prototypes. The IP developed in this project will be contributed for 5G standardisa-tion,” Union Minister of electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad said late last year in a reply to the Parliament.
An official of the ministry said that the idea behind the ongoing work is to generate indigenous IP which can provide India some bargaining power. “One-fifth of the cost of an telecom equipment is the royalty paid to the patent holder, so when we have a set of our own IP, it can incentivise domestic manufacturing and reduce costs,” added the official.
This person said that India is aggressively pursuing the agenda at the body which is making standards for 5G of which India has been made a member only two years ago.
“World over governments in China, UK, and others are pumping money in 5G and we can’t miss the boat,” added the official.
5G trials are being rolled out across the world and a variety of players from telecom service providers like Ericsson, Orange and Verizon or tech players like Google and Samsung have shown interest in or conducted field 5G trials.
5G is capable of delivering speeds of over one 1 gigabit per second and support several devices at once.
Gartner expects 20.8 billion internet enabled devices by 2020 – up from just 6.4 billion in 2016. Said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director at IIT Madras, while negotiating at the global level, ideas backed by patents get into the patent pool and the chances of cross-licensing increase.