India's second-largest service provider, Bharti Airtel, has partnered with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), one of the largest IT firms in the world, to deploy its homegrown open RAN-based radio, non-standalone and standalone core 5G solution.
Airtel will start the pilot in January 2022. TCS has developed the 5G solution along with several partners. The 5G spectrum auctions are likely to be held in 2022.
Earlier in 2021, Airtel became the first Indian service provider to demonstrate NSA 5G over 1800MHz spectrum over a live network in Hyderabad in South India. Recently, the company conducted 5G trials in several cities by using spectrum allocated by the Department of Telecommunications.
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The open RAN solution will help Airtel to bring down the cost of 5G network deployment. The company is a board member of the O-RAN Alliance. In 2020, Airtel conducted an O-RAN Alliance plugfest, collaborating with Altiostar and NEC to showcase interoperability of massive MIMO radio units and virtualized distributed units running on COTS servers.
"TCS brings its global system integration expertise and helps align the end-to-end solution to both 3GPP and O-RAN standards, as the network and equipment are increasingly embedded into the software," says the press note issued by TCS.
This partnership allows Airtel to offset rival Reliance Jio's stress on developing its own 5G solutions. Much like Jio's plan of selling its indigenous 5G solution in the global market after it is successfully deployed in its own network, TCS also believes that it will "open export opportunities for India, which is now the second largest telecom markets in the world."
"These Made in India 5G product and solutions are aligned to global standards and inter-operate with other products based on standard open interfaces and those defined by the O-RAN Alliance," says the press note.
Airtel also worked with Sercomm in 2020 to jointly develop vRAN-based TDD small cells. It recently tied up with Dixon Electronics to manufacture networking gear in India.
"With its world-class technology ecosystem and talent pool, India is well positioned to build cutting edge solutions and applications for the world. This will also provide a massive boost to India becoming an innovation and manufacturing destination," said Gopal Vittal, CEO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel.
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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading