India's Jio Platforms, the parent company of Reliance Jio Infocomm, is looking to acquire or form partnerships with domestic firms to develop competencies in building and manufacturing 5G products.
Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, said recently that the company had developed its homegrown 5G offering, which it plans to export to other countries after deploying it in its own network in the coming year.
Jio's acquisition of Radisys about two years back helped it build 5G competencies. "We think it is possible Jio, quite likely in conjunction with other local IT players, has managed to build its own 5G software stack and is likely embracing Open RAN techniques or possibly even cloud-RAN as an architecture," research firm Bernstein said in its recent report. Prominent Indian IT vendors with a strong presence in telecom vertical, like TCS, Wipro and Tech Mahindra, are the obvious targets for such a tie-up with Jio. Tech Mahindra has a stake in Altiostar, which is supporting Japan's Rakuten in setting up its network.
Jio is now believed to be evaluating local firms to acquire or to form partnerships. It might be looking at domestic firms in line with the "Atmanirbhar" (self-reliance) push by the Indian Government. Below is a brief profile of the potential targets:
Himachal Futuristic Cable Limited (HFCL) is likely to be high up on the acquisition or partnership target list for Jio Platforms because of the existing close ties between the two firms. HFCL's Infotel bid initially acquired the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum in 2010. Infotel was acquired almost immediately by RIL after the spectrum results were declared. HFCL continues to work with Reliance Jio for laying cables.
It specializes in the manufacturing of telecom equipment and optical fiber cable. HFCL provides solutions for the building of wireless and telecom networks, such as DWDM, radio backhaul, FTTH and in-building systems. Besides, it also has a tie-up with DragonWave, a Canadian provider of packet microwave solutions required for IP networks.
If there is one Indian telecom firm that imbibed the principles of "Atmanirbhar" much before it became a buzzword, it is Tejas Networks. Founded in 2000, Tejas is known to focus heavily on research and development. The company has a presence in several countries and is working with many Tier 1 operators across the globe. If it is R&D capability that Jio Platforms has in mind, Tejas should be its prime target.
According to media reports, Niral Networks has received a proposal from Jio's startup accelerator. Led by Dr. Inder Gopal, a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Science, the company offers several products including access routers, cell site routers, DPI and cell site gateways, and inspection.
Lekha Wireless Solutions
Formed in 2010, Lekha Wireless Solutions develops access technologies in various wireless technologies, including 5G New Radio (NR).
VVDN, a domestic telecom contract manufacturer, is in the news of late for expanding its manufacturing capability for 5G gear. It has recently collaborated with Sterlite Technologies to manufacture 5G radio products, including small cells and macro RU. Jio might be looking to collaborate with VVDN on 5G gear manufacturing.
Based out of Bengaluru, SignalChip is one of the few Indian firms in the semiconductor space.
Formed in 2010, Nivetti claims to have developed India's first indigenous networking operating system.
Vihaan might be of interest to Jio because it not only designs but also manufactures the products in-house. Part of Shyam Networks, it is one of the oldest Indian vendors.
Formed in 2007, Saankhya Labs has solutions in 5G broadcast, 5G NR and Satcom solutions. The company is developing an open RAN-based solution for 5G in 2021.
Besides these players, the company will also seek to acquire or partner with startups.
Reliance Jio has a strong history working with startups. Over the last few years, it has invested in Haptik, C-Square, Fynd, Netrdyna, SankyaSutra Labs, Tesseract and Embibe, among others. Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, invited the startups to partner with them for the recent Annual General Meeting speech. The company also runs a startup accelerator, Jio Gen Next.
All in all, expect to see Jio in the news for various partnership and acquisition deals in the coming few months.
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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading