India to develop commercial tech for mobile base stations

In a first, India will be developing technologies for mobile base stations that can be commercialised, which will provide an impetus to a host of private firms including small and medium industries, academia research labs and make 5G services — yet to be launched — more affordable. The technology will be developed as part of a Rs 150-crore national project that set off earlier this month in Bengaluru.

A Technology Innovation Hub (TIH) laid as a Section-8 (not-for-profit) company at the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIIT-B) will hold the helm of the R&D collaboration. This government-funded project — managed under the national mission on interdisciplinary cyber-physical systems (NM-ICPS) — will also develop other advanced communications and cyber-physical systems technologies relating to, but not limited to, 5G.

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Project details have been confirmed by the Times Of India after contacting multiple officials from the department of science and technology (DST), which is funding the project. Prof Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, DST said that the TIH will build an array of technologies relating to advanced communications and will play a pivotal role in not just indigenising technology and conceiving a knowledge hub but also giving a boost private firms.

A senior DST official said: “IIIT-B has demonstrated capabilities to do this. We’re also looking at software-defined 5G networks which can augment existing technologies and redefine them. While this would be the primary focus of this TIH, it would also allow industries to co-develop technologies or products and push for commercialisation. A spin-off of startups and other companies will also be encouraged. In the future, the TIH may address other challenges, including those in the field of quantum communications.”

Prof Debabrata Das from IIIT-B further elaborated on the nature of the base station technology, which will be built on ORAN (Open Radio Access Network), which is the latest open-source architecture that is in increasingly adopted around the world. He added this will speed up the process of innovations and products in these areas and further provide customers with a range of different firms to choose from for different modules.

Das further opined that this is an important step, in lieu with Prime Minister’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat. The 5G stations will have higher bandwidth but lower coverage area, creating the necessity to set up more stations, thus laying stress in value of having such technologies built indigenously and commercialised. A further highlight is that two big telcos, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have also announced plans of developing various technologies relating to 5G.