India gives itself a mission to lead the 'Global South' into 6G era

Builds its own seat at the standards development table

India's government has presented the nation with a challenge: to lead development and deployment of 6G, both within its borders and elsewhere.

Prime minister Narendra Modi yesterday opened an area office and innovation center of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and used the occasion to launch a 6G vision statement that he said is part of India's desire to "provide universal connectivity in the Global South".

"Global South" is a term often used to describe nations with low-to-middle incomes, located in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean.

India has already used tech to make a play for influence among such nations by bundling its home-grown e-government services as IndiaStack and offering them to other governments.

Modi mentioned the components of IndiaStack in his speech at the ITU opening, adding that India hosts the body's World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly in 2024.

The vision statement [PDF] notes that India proposed the low mobility large cell rural use case that the ITU has since adopted as a standard. It points to that success as an example of the positive influence India can have on standards development.

"India has the necessary wherewithal to drive the 6G wave globally and leverage this powerful force multiplier to transform itself into a leading global supplier of advanced, relevant, and affordable telecom systems and solutions," the vision document states.

The document outlines a two-phase plan for India's 6G Mission, the first being an "ideation phase to understand the inherent potential and risk associated with the pathways ahead and test proof-of-concept implementations."

The second phase "will be dedicated to conceptualizing and delivering potential technology solutions to serve India and the global community."

The document also concedes that 6G is currently an ill-defined term, and that a standard is unlikely to be finished during the 2020s, with deployment to follow in the 2030.

But India wants in on the standard's development. The document notes that several other nations and groupings are already hard at work on ideas expected to become part of 6G.

The document also suggests Indian companies should become manufacturers of 6G kit, and a source of R&D on the emerging standard.

India had the same ambitions for 5G. Its dominant carrier Jio in 2020 announced it had developed its own 5G network infrastructure and would sell it to all comers.

The Register is unaware of any sales that flowed from that announcement, but India is using IndiaStack to make friends in the Global South. And it knows its model of cooperation through the gift of digital public goods is very different to China's offer – access to cheap kit from Huawei and ZTE, perhaps bundled with loans to Beijing-backed banks.

Ensuring India is present as decisions on 6G are made gives the nation a better chance of extending its influence into the Global South, and nourishing its telco sector. ®

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