Six firms register on India's 5G testbed to develop use-cases

Six firms register on India's 5G testbed to develop use-cases

Part of effort to develop local technology.

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India’s first indigenous fifth-generation mobile telephony (5G) testbed, interconnected but built at five different locations in the country, went live late last week.

The portal received registrations from six firms looking to test their 5G equipment before deployment.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras’ former director, Bhaskar Ramamurthi, who is a key architect of the project said: “About six firms have registered to date (May 21)... Two of them are in the process of testing (equipment) with one nearing completion.”

Along with IIT Madras, the testbed has been developed in collaboration with seven other research and development (R&D) organisations with funding of US$28.8 million by India’s Department of Telecom (DoT).

The other institutions involved are: IIT Bombay, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, the Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering & Research (SAMEER) and the Centre of Excellence in Wireless Technology (CEWiT)

The testbed will be available to industry, academia, research institutions and government bodies for various R&D, product development and capacity building activities related to 5G.

The testbed is fully compliant with the 5G standard and “is being updated to comply with the latest releases of the standard," Ramamurthi said.

India is on track to conduct 5G spectrum auctions later this year.

The 5G testbed testing facilities are available at CEWiT Chennai, IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Kanpur and IISc Bangalore.

Some of the services from these institutes can be run remotely and thus can be accessed over the internet.

They provide the full capability to support and test Internet of Things (IoT) products and applications such as autonomous vehicles, smart sensors, remote robotics and li-fi projects.

Tech aspects

Some of the notable services and setups available in the testbed are:

  • Setup for testing all end-to-end applications that run over 5G networks.
  • Emulated end-to-end testbed
  • End-to-End interoperability testing setup
  • Radio access network (RAN) level testbed
  • Physical layer (PHY) level testbed with RF equipment 
  • Multi-access edge computing (MEC) platform and setup
  • Security algorithm setup,
  • Open source-based sub 6 GHz transport block (TB) to perform modifications to PHY layer, mmWave testbed to design algorithm to control the beams
  • Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) app testing setup, 5G NR gNB
  • UE setup for interoperability testing of subsystems such as PHY, stack, core, non-access stratum (NAS) or radiofrequency (RF) and others.                  

The key aspect of the new testbed, Ramamurthi said, is its end-to-end feature.

“Not only can tests be carried out by users over the air, but subsystems of the network can be substituted to test new products,” he added.

The testbed will validate, prove and also interrogate products or applications to check what might be going wrong.

This will enable firms to develop new 5G use cases with custom hardware or apps to validate their solutions, he said.

“The testbed is live and firms will be prioritised on a first-come-first-serve basis… (the testbed) can probe deep into systems to debug applications and products, and well-trained engineers are also available in the facility to help users when required,” Ramamurthi added.

Local hardware

All hardware and software had been developed in-house except for semiconductors, he said.

“Most of the 5G test equipment used to develop the testbed is also available to users - equipment like vector signal analysers, signal generators, 5G next-generation nodeB (gNB) and user equipment (UE) emulators and so on with significant discounts for start-ups and students,” Ramamurthi added.

The testbed is developed in a way to support technology transfer for manufacturing.

“A campus is being set up at IIT Madras with a radio network and core network developed in the testbed…The technology behind these systems is already being transferred to the industry for manufacturing,” Ramamurthi said.

When asked about India building its own technology stack, Ramamurthi said 5G technology is “heavily software-defined, particularly in the core network and to an extent even in the radio access network”.

As a spinoff, the team has also developed the 5G core and the 5G RAN in both 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands that are fit for licensing and manufacturing, he added.

The testbed come nearly a year after DoT allocated 5G spectrum in the 700 megahertz (MHz), 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) and 26 GHz frequency bands to six telcos including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Vodafone Idea and MTNL for conducting trials for use and applications of 5G technology.

The telcos have tied up with original equipment manufacturers and technology providers like Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT, with none of them using technologies of Chinese equipment makers.

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