India is already looking beyond the adoption of 5G technology, to develop and deploy its faster and superior successor: the sixth generation of telecom network or 6G. TIG-6G, the Technology Innovation Group on 6G, has devised a plan to establish 6G technology in India by 2030, called the Bharat 6G Vision. The objective of this vision is to develop and implement 6G network technologies that provide secure, intelligent, and widespread connectivity, enabling a high-quality living experience for people worldwide. The Vision statement emphasizes India's dedication to socio-economic growth, and the potential benefits of India leading the way in 6G technology, which offers ultra-low latency and speeds up to 1 terabit per second. This could be a game-changer for the Indian economy.

Revolutionising human-to-human, human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions, 6G is a defining moment in India’s techade. India's Minister of Communications and IT, Ashwini Vaishnaw, has announced that the country has recently acquired over 127 patents for 6G technology from global institutions. This achievement has led to an increased interest in India's technological advancements, with countries such as the US expressing a keen desire to obtain the latest 6G technology from India. Several countries see India as a promising destination for investments in 6G technology sector owing to country’s large market size, the potential for a significant return on investment, and favourable government policies allowing for 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the telecom sector under automatic route. 

Potential of 6G technology in India

6G holds the potential to transform the Indian landscape through its offerings of faster data transfer speeds, lower latency, improved security, and advanced features such as holographic communications and AI-powered networks. The implications of 6G span multiple sectors and promise to deliver an advanced user experience, in line with the goals of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat.' For example, in the education sector, 6G technology will facilitate industry interactions and virtual visits, providing students with immersive experiences to enhance their knowledge.
Similarly, it will strengthen the diagnosis and treatment options in the healthcare sector. Other sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture will see an increase in production efficiency and improvement in supply chain management due to greater automation and precision powered by 6G. Additionally, with increased reliability and coverage, transportation could become safer and more efficient, while public infrastructure could be managed more effectively in smart cities. 

In alignment with the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of telecom technology being a mode to empower, the widespread adoption of 6G technology is expected to bridge the gap in regional and social infrastructure and economic opportunities, providing viable alternatives to rural exodus and metro-driven urbanisation. With the potential to reduce disparities in e-service availability between urban and rural communities, the deployment of 6G technology could facilitate the growth of small businesses in rural areas, promote innovation, and enhance job opportunities. 

Government Initiatives

The government has invested INR 2,240 million in a new 6G Test Bed, co-developed by a consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), to provide an R&D platform to start-ups, researchers, industry, and other broadband wireless applications. The first phase of the Bharat 6G vision focuses on explorative ideas, followed by the second phase, which lays emphasis on supporting ideas and concepts that show promise, and creating implementational IPs and testbeds leading to commercialisation. An Apex Council has been constituted and endowed with the responsibility of defining the phase-wise objectives, consulting the Bharat 6G Alliance, recommending research and innovation directions, monitoring progress periodically, conducting external evaluations, and proposing corrective actions if necessary.

India's core digital economy increased from 5.4 per cent of GVA in 2014 to 8.5 per cent in 2019, with a digitally dependent economy estimated to be around 22 percent of GDP in 2019. India’s digital economy grew 2.4 times faster than the Indian economy, with strong forward linkages to non-digital sectors. A significant contribution to the 6G standardisation will boost the domestic industry, as well as India's standing in the global telecom industry. This drive for adoption of 6G could see India become a global supplier of intellectual property as well as affordable products and solutions.

As chair of the G20, India is discernibly pushing for reducing the global digital divide. A centrepiece of the recently held Global South Summit was the underlined importance of technology, design, and standards as per the needs of the Global South to achieve universal connectivity in the region. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN specialised agency for subjects related to information and communications technology opened its first office in India at the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) campus in March 2023. This development boosts India’s position in the subcontinent and offers a platform for greater coordination and cooperation among nations in the region. Through the implementation of 6G technology, India could offer efficient and affordable access to essential services to other developing nations in the Global South. The World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly of ITU, scheduled for October 2024 in New Delhi, will serve as an opportunity for global representatives to explore the potential benefits of India's advancements in 6G technology.

India's pursuit of 6G technology is a significant step towards achieving a digitally empowered society. India, with its vast population and rapidly growing digital infrastructure, stands to benefit immensely from the development and implementation of 6G technology. However, the widespread adoption of 6G in India will require significant investment in research and development, as well as infrastructure upgrades to support the new technology. Collaborative efforts between the government and industry leaders are crucial to maintain India's position as a pioneer in technological innovation and to prepare the country for the advent of 6G technology. By implementing appropriate investments and policies, India can continue to lead the global technology landscape and benefit from the potential of 6G for years to come.

The blog has been Co-authored by George Anand.

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