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    DoT rolls out a request for proposals for 5G intelligent villages, network slicing for secure digital transactions

    The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has rolled out a call for proposals for designing “5G intelligent villages” by developing 5G Network solutions for rural areas. The authority has invited proposals to enable “effective utilization of Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) and massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) aspects of 5G in selected villages, showcasing the advantages of 5G connectivity.” This call for proposals has been rolled out under the Telecom Technology Development Fund (TTDF) scheme that was notified by the government in 2022.

    One of the areas that the DoT is looking for proposals is network slicing for secure transactions. For context, network slicing is a feature of 5G networks that allows telecom companies to create multiple virtualized subnetworks (each known as a “slice”) using shared physical wireless network infrastructure and common computing resources. 

    As a part of the proposals pertaining to network slicing, DoT expects companies to develop a UPI prototype and deploy parts of the 5G network architecture, namely the Authentication Server Function (AUSF) and Policy Control Function (PCF), for secure network slice operations. AUSF authenticates the users entering a 5G network and PCF provides policy rules (for network slicing, roaming between operators, and mobility management) to other network functions. The purpose of creating these network slices is to enable secure financial transactions and minimize cyber attacks.

    Debates around 5G network slicing and net neutrality:

    In April this year, net neutrality proponents raised concerns that the US’s draft net neutrality rules allowed for the 5G fast lanes through dedicated network slices, provided that the telcos don’t charge for them. It is important to note here that net neutrality proponents didn’t want network slicing to be banned. Certain cases, such as dedicated slice for a farming operation using remote-controlled tractors, slices for telemetry data and oversight of autonomous cars, are good reasons to isolate network traffic. Their key concern was with the creation of fast lanes. 

    While the rules were eventually changed to reflect that fast lanes would not be allowed, the discussion raised questions about how net neutrality would be applied in the context of 5G.

    In India, Reliance Jio has previously argued in response to a consultation by the telecom regulator on 5G that there is a need to address “restrictive net neutrality and data charging rules,” to accommodate 5G requirements. It remains to be seen whether these arguments would factor into the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendations on the 5G ecosystem.

    Other suggested areas for proposals:

    • Common Intelligent Village Application System, which would be a unified platform where applications can be hosted.
    • Smart health operations like health ATMs and mobile healthcare units, aimed at making healthcare accessible.
    • Wi-Fi hotspots through fixed wireless access (FWA) services. Fixed wireless access uses 4G or 5G radio spectrum (the same is used for mobile phone services) to provide wireless broadband connectivity between two fixed points. It can provide internet connectivity in areas where there is zero or poor terrestrial connectivity. 
    • Providing 5G connectivity to areas currently outside of coverage.

    Why it matters:

    Indian telecom operators have also mentioned several times that their 5G services are not currently monetized and are not bringing in additional revenue. “With the exception of some private 5G networks and some B2B [business to business] use cases which have modest revenue streams associated with it, fundamental use cases are still not there,” Gotal Vittal, the Managing Director of Bharti Airtel, said in one of the company’s earnings calls

    He also said that while 5G networks are now being deployed, the applications that fully utilize the features offered by 5G networks (high speeds, low latency and massive capacity) have not been developed yet. With the government rolling out a proposal for 5G technologies, telcos would have an opportunity to find more utility for their 5G networks. 

    Who can submit proposals for 5G intelligent villages?

    DoT invites proposals from companies, start-ups, R&D institutions, and academic institutions, either individually or in partnership. Only companies/start-ups headquartered in India (not subsidiaries of foreign companies) and Indian R&D/academic institutions are eligible to receive funding from TTDF. The last date for submitting proposals is July 31, 2024. 

    Also read:

    The post DoT rolls out a request for proposals for 5G intelligent villages, network slicing for secure digital transactions appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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