Airtel Pivots to Using Indigenous Equipment For 5G Deployment to Compete With Jio’s Make in India 5G Push

Using homegrown OpenRAN technology will allow Airtel to reduce the cost of 5G deployment in India. 

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DoT 5G Trial Airtel Reliance Jio

5G network trials have begun in India. Reliance Jio reportedly carried out 5G network trial using its indigenous gear in Mumbai. The company is expected to carry out test trials in other cities as well in the coming days. The Mukesh Ambani-led telco carried out trials a day after Airtel conducted 5G network tests in Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub. At the time, the company had opted for Ericsson’s 5G network gear. A new ET Telecom report states that Bharti Airtel has entered into a strategic partnership with Tata Group to deploy locally-developed Open-RAN-based 5G radio and core resolutions. Using homegrown OpenRAN technology will allow Airtel to reduce the cost of 5G deployment in India. 

OpenRAN as a concept enables hardware and software to be disaggregated. It allows technology products from different suppliers to co-exist with various software providers. With this, companies can get the hardware such as radio made from contract manufacturers and integrate it with the software based on OpenRAN. 

Airtel said that it will pilot and deploy Tata’s OpenRAN tech as part of its 5G rollout plans in India. According to the ET Telecom report, Airtel’s pilot with OpenRAN begins in January 2022. The Sunil Mittal-led telecom operator said that Tata Group has developed a ‘state of the art’ O-RAN based radio and NSA/SA core technology. It has further has integrated a totally indigenous telecom stack, leveraging the group’s own capabilities via Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Tata Group is also working with a bunch of start-ups and local companies for R&D and local manufacturing in the future. 

Using OpenRAN will allow Jio and Airtel to cut network-related cost and bring in more customisations as they upgrade their networks to 5G. The DoT had previously instructed that none of the approved telecom companies will be using equipment from Chinese 5G gear makers like ZTE or Huawei. It has approved telcos to use 5G gear from Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, C-DOT and homegrown Reliance Jio. 

Airtel has been allotted the 5G trial spectrum in 3500 MHz, 28 GHz and 700 MHz. Its competitors, Vodafone-Idea (Vi) and Reliance Jio have also been allotted spectrums in the 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands. The Sunil Mittal-led company is also the first telecom operator in India to conduct 5G trials using the 1800MHz band with the Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) technology. Both Airtel and Jio have previously stated that their networks are 5G ready and awaiting for adequate spectrum from the DoT.

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Venkatesh is our in-house leakster. He has earned honorary mentions on some of the biggest tech publications like GSMArena PCMag, NDTV, and more. When not busy playing Football and digging substantial information on un-released devices, Venkatesh likes to take his bike for a ride and dabble into nature photography.