Reliance Jio seeks govt's permission for trial of self-designed 5G

The government has been pushing for building local capacity in both the design and manufacturing of telecom equipment
In a first by an Indian telco, Reliance Jio has sought permission from the government to undertake 5G trials based on technology and design developed by it. Sources familiar with the development said that if the 5G technology foray was successful, the design and technology for equipment could be outsourced for manufacturing to third-party players.

The move comes on the heels of Jio deciding to broaden its 5G trial runs with Chinese giant Huawei Technologies, Ericsson, and Nokia Networks — and not limit them to South Korean giant Samsung. 

Samsung was earlier the sole supplier for core equipment to Jio for 4G services, despite competition and aggressive bidding by Chinese gear makers. A Reliance Jio spokesperson declined to comment on the development.

Reliance has been quietly building its telecom R&D design. Rancore Technologies, earlier a subsidiary of RIL, for instance, was working on core software development that included building products and services to suit modern 4G needs. 

It was then amalgamated with Reliance Jio. In 2018, RIL bought US-based Radisys for over $67 million to enhance Jio’s capabilities in 5G and the Internet of Things. The Reliance move on designing 5G equipment is significant as this is an area that has always been dominated by foreign companies.

Competitors Airtel and Vodafone Idea are undertaking design of 5G telecom gear with all the three global players: Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei. Some are tying up with Zte. 

  • Jio to undertake trial runs, test its own design and tech 
  • Has signed up with top vendors from Europe and China, besides Samsung 
  • Govt pushing for Indian standards in 5G network 
  • Trai had drafted recommendations for incentivising indigenous design, manufacture of equipment
The government has been pushing for building local capacity in both the design and manufacturing of telecom equipment. In 2018, TRAI came out with recommendations on encouraging local telecom equipment manufacturing by classifying indigenous products into three categories and suggesting incentives. 

These categories comprise products designed in India but manufactured abroad; those both designed and manufactured in India; and equipment designed abroad but manufactured in India. The latter is already being done by companies like Ericsson by setting up plants in the country. Analysts say the Reliance Jio effort could fall into the other two categories.

To push the agenda, the Indian telecom standards body, the Telecommunications Standards Development Society India, which has representatives from the DoT, has been pushing for an Indian standard for 5G rather than global standards. 

The standards body has pointed out that it will make some changes and enhancements to the global 5G standards so that they meet India’s specific needs. The move has, however, been opposed by incumbent telcos who say that it will lead to product unavailability and problems in roaming interoperability.

All operators are waiting for the government's nod for the trials. Vendors say that based on their discussions with the DoT, they expect telcos to be given a free hand in choosing as many players as they want to undertake trials.

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