US-based tech major Qualcomm, a key player in the 5G space, believes the technology can be a game-changer in helping industries leapfrog to the next level. Rajen Vagadia, VP and president, Qualcomm India & SAARC, tells Kiran Rathee how 5G technology can help cater to the needs of society and help industries prepare for the future. Excerpts:
The government has announced 5G trials. How do you see the development?
A) The recent approval on 5G trials is a very welcome development. When 3G and 4G were launched in India, spectrum was allocated to telecom service providers, leading to trials and small, commercial, city-wise launches followed by larger geographies, which took a few years. However, 5G is different from 3G and 4G as there will now be multiple industry and vertical use cases associated with it. 5G will be leveraged on a massive scale by everyone right from start-ups to operators to industries. Therefore, conducting trials is a good strategy.
The government wants telcos to use local 5G technology (5Gi) during the trials. What promise does the local technology hold when compared to the currently prevalent 3GPP standards for 5G?
With the Indian trials, there are two technology options: trials based on the globally harmonised 3GPP standard and the 5Gi standard that is unique for India. The 5Gi standard has been designed to address the typical Indian rural use case. With 5G trials operators, will have the opportunity to understand what works best for them, as operators have their unique way of designing their networks, leveraging standards and evaluating technology options.
Qualcomm is developing a 5G solution with Reliance Jio. Will the solution be tested during the upcoming trials, and how is it different from other available technologies?
We have a long-term collaborative relationship with Jio. We have been working with them on various fronts. With the shared goal of extending the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone and everything, we anticipate Jio Platforms to deliver a new set of services and experiences to India consumers. As they move forward in their 5G journey, we aim to also support them in rolling out advanced 5G infrastructure and services for India.
How do you see the opening of more spectrum bands like the millimetre band and the sub-1 GHz band for trials?
The addition of millimetre wave is a brilliant and very welcome move by the government. It is one of the key spectrum bands for 5G, due to the availability of large bandwidths. Spectrum is an enabler of innovations, now also for the large tech start-up base of India, who can leverage it in different ways to create solutions benefiting not just India but also relevant for the world. But to ensure the optimal adoption of 5G spectrum, it is vital that it is made available in right quantity and cost.
Nowadays, telcos have started embracing open RAN. What future does it have, and does it mean the end of propriety networks in India?
Open RAN (O-RAN) is a new methodology for rolling out disaggregated networks, which is like a prerequisite for the design of modern networks. As its architecture is more scalable and flexible, it allows participation of more companies and start-ups along with the conventional infrastructure partners of the network operators. It is also more cost-efficient when compared to traditional networks. Network operators will have a choice of designing their network architecture leveraging the conventional networks, which I call as monolith network, along with O-RAN.