March 31, 2022
Bharti Airtel, India's second-largest service provider, has indicated that it will not purchase 5G equipment from the Chinese vendors, as per the recent interviews of Randeep Sekhon, chief technology officer at Bharti Airtel, published in Mint, a financial daily.
Chinese vendors, Huawei and ZTE, are yet to receive trusted vendor certification from the government of India. So, Airtel's strategy is in line with the government mandate.
Instead, the company will be using gear from European vendors, Nokia and Ericsson. That does leave out Samsung from the 5G orders, which has been trying to go beyond Reliance Jio, its only customer in India. Airtel has worked with both Nokia and Ericsson for conducting 5G trials.
Further, Airtel will also be using solutions from open RAN vendors, including its existing open RAN partner, Mavenir, among others. The company is already conducting an open RAN trial with Mavenir in the state of Punjab in North India.
Regarding the 5G spectrum auction, Airtel is likely to adopt a conservative approach to spectrum procurement. India is set to hold a spectrum auction in May this year, and the commercial services will likely be launched by August. While 100MHz is the norm, Sekhon indicated that the service provider might initially go for 40-60MHz of spectrum unless and until the base price was brought down. The service providers have been urging the government to bring down the reserve price of the spectrum.
Beyond the spectrum
Apart from investment in acquiring the spectrum, the company will be investing in setting up edge and cloud infrastructure. "Today, we have 120-plus data centers which are pan-India, through Nxtra, the largest network of data centers in India, but there are many more which are presently used for internal consumption, but we are ready to get them converted to the edge where we can put a public cloud or an Airtel cloud and we can bring applications on top," says Sekhon in an interview with Mint.
Airtel would be focusing on partnerships with content providers and Over-The-Top players to enable 5G use cases. The company is particularly keen on metaverse use cases. Airtel recently showcased the meta avatar of Kapil Dev, former captain of the Indian cricket team, and moments from the famous 1983 World Cup final match, in Gurugram.
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Airtel has already started to form partnerships to be able to provide new use cases to the enterprises. It announced a partnership with Tech Mahindra to co-develop and market 5G use cases in India. The two companies will set up a joint 5G innovation lab for developing Make in India use cases for the Indian and global markets. Airtel and Tech Mahindra will also offer private 5G networks Cloud and Content Delivery Network (CDN) solutions to businesses.
Recently, it has also formed partnerships with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Capgemini for 5G services.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
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