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India plans to develop mobile handset brand, says Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

Vaishnaw said that in the next five years, there will be significant disruptions in the way telecom technology operates.

India will work on developing its own mobile handset brand in the coming years, India’s Minister of Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw said during the Indus Appstore launch on February 21. “Our initial success of having large-scale mobile manufacturing has given us very good learning, it has given the industry a lot of confidence, it has given the impetus to the ecosystem partners to come to India,” Vaishnaw said, adding that India intends to work on developing an entire handset ecosystem in the country. Vaishnaw said that in the next five years, there will be significant disruptions in the way telecom technology operates. This disruption, he said would be brought about as a result of the separation of telecom software and hardware. “Pretty much like what happened in IT [information technology] hardware, pretty much like what happened in mobile phone, [a] similar thing is happening in telecom technology, so that is where we have the option to take a lead” Vaishnaw explained.

Vaishnaw also mentioned that another major target for the telecom sector in India is 6G development. “The next five years are the most important years in which 6G technology will be developed,” he said. The government notably launched the Bharat 6G Alliance in July last year under which it intends to facilitate the collaboration of domestic industry, academia, and national research institutions for research and innovation in 6G and other emerging technologies.

When will India’s semiconductor chip be a part of the global supply chain?

Vaishnaw explained that the semiconductor value chain starts with designing chips, post which fabrication facilities are set up and then assembled, tested, marked, and packaged (called ATMP). Within the design space, India is looking at ways to switch from being a back office to being a product development ecosystem. “Which basically means go out to the customers, look at what the requirements are, basis those requirement study develop a full product,” he said.

Within the fabrication space, India has started its semiconductor mission, he explained. “And we already have very good success. Micron plant is already under construction,” he said, adding that within a short time frame there will be 2-3 more approvals. As such, he said that the country is moving from just being a design ecosystem to a fabrication and ATMP ecosystem. Vaishnaw mentioned that in the next five years, India plans to establish 3-4 high volume of fabrication facilities and create a niche and leadership in at least one product category. “We will see the first chip rollout in December 2024 itself,” he said.

It is important to note here that India’s semiconductor programme has seen major roadblocks. In July last year, one of the accepted applicants for the programme, the joint venture Vedanta Foxconn Semiconductors Private Limited, saw the withdrawal of Foxconn from the venture. Other applicants for the programme, international semiconductor consortium ISMC and Innovative Global Solutions & Services (IGSS) have been unable to create semiconductors yet, with ISMC’s tech partner being acquired by Intel and IGSS Ventures’ application being rejected because it didn’t meet the government’s standards. As of August 2023, IGSS Ventures was planning on tweaking its proposal for the semiconductor programme by bringing a major global semiconductor company on board as a lead investor.

Goals for India’s digital economy:

The government plans to focus on developing 10-12 technologies, Vaishnaw said, without naming said technologies. “The way we have developed the telecom stack, the way we have developed the digital stack, in exactly same spirit which will be a spirit of public-private partnership, we will be developing a series of technologies which holds good for the country and which can then be exported also,” he said.

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