Tejas Networks has acquired the technology for producing Radio Access Network (RAN) – the heart of 5G communications – from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, for ₹12 crore. This is a non-exclusive technology transfer. The Tata Group company is expected to be able to sell RAN to telecom companies in a year.  

RAN is a piece of equipment that every 5G telecom tower will need to have. There are over 200,000 5G sites in India. (The 2,00,000th site was launched at Gangotri in May 2023.) 

Though the technology arose out of the 5G test bed housed in IIT Madras, it was developed by the IITs of Madras and Kanpur and the Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering and Research (SAMEER), a research institution under the Ministry of Electronics and IT. 

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Tejas Networks getting into the manufacture of RAN is a significant step in the indigenisation of telecommunications equipment, of which there are just a handful in the world—the likes of Huawei, ZTE, and Ericsson. In recent years, buying equipment from abroad has been seen as something fraught with security risk. With RAN under its belt, Tejas joins the elite club of 5G telecom equipment manufacturers. 

At a press conference at IIT Madras today, it was said that the technology transferred was at a ‘technology readiness level (TRL)’ 8. From here to TRL-10 – full commercialisation – Tejas would have to do a lot of work including testing.  

5G test bed

On May 17, 2022, Prime Minister Modi dedicated the ‘5G test bed’ to the nation. The test bed is distributed over five locations – IITs of Madras, Kanpur, Delhi, and Hyderabad, and the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. A government press release described the test bed as “a crucial step towards 5G Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and said that Indian academia and industry could use the Indigenous 5G Test Bed “to validate products, prototypes, algorithms, and services.” 

Though the test bed itself is a year old, work on 5G technologies had started earlier. Dr Radhakrishna Ganti of the Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Madras, and the Principal Investigator from IIT Madras told businessline that RAN was a product of five years of work of 200 scientists. 

Dr Kamakoti Veezhinathan, Director, IIT Madras, disagreed that the technology may have been undersold, noting that Tejas would have further work to do, and the idea was also to help develop an Indian telecom equipment manufacturing industry.  

For the quarter ended September 2023, Tejas Networks reported a turnover of ₹377 crore and a net loss of ₹12 crore.

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