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Axiata angles for open RAN leadership in Asia

Axiata gave further impetus to the open radio access network (RAN) agenda by unveiling plans to deploy the forward-looking, disaggregation-focused technology in three markets and announcing two key partners.

The Malaysia-based group said it has carried out commercial open RAN trials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

In order to do so, it has been collaborating with network virtualization specialists Mavenir and Parallel Wireless. Infosys has also been involved as systems integrator for the projects.

Open for business: Axiata has been conducting open RAN trials in Malaysia (above), Indonesia and Sri Lanka.   (Source: Esmonde Yong on Unsplash)
Open for business: Axiata has been conducting open RAN trials in Malaysia (above), Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
(Source: Esmonde Yong on Unsplash)

Axiata is certainly being pretty bold with its open RAN ambitions, and said it is eyeing large-scale commercial deployments by the end of the year.

It is also claiming a number of firsts: the first open RAN network in Sri Lanka and Malaysia; the first open RAN solution commercially deployed with satellite backhaul; and the first commercial deployment of the Evenstar Split 7.2 radio unit (RU) architecture from the Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

Mavenir takes Evenstar forward...

Open RAN proponent Mavenir is set to play a big role here, with Axiata deploying a number of the vendor's solutions in all three countries – and also using satellite for backhaul for some rural sites.

It was also through Mavenir's MAVair O-RAN based solution that Axiata said it was able to achieve service integration of the TIP's Evenstar 4G radio in the three countries.

Axiata is a participant of the TIP initiative, in which companies and organizations are working together to accelerate the development and deployment of open, disaggregated and standards-based technology solutions.

TIP launched the Evenstar remote radio units (RRU) program in February 2020, with initial partners including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, MTI and AceAxis.

The focus of the program is on building general purpose RAN reference designs for 4G and 5G networks in the open RAN ecosystem that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN Alliance specifications.

...as Parallel Wireless goes to Sri Lanka

Also involved in the open RAN trials is fellow open RAN player Parallel Wireless, which has been working with Dialog Axiata in Sri Lanka to test open RAN networks for 2G and 4G connectivity.

Axiata said the vendor's products enabled 2G and 4G technology to be installed on the same radio units, whilst all other applications were installed on Axiata's OpenStack cloud infrastructure.

Parallel Wireless noted that the trial "included replacing incumbent infrastructure." The vendor also emphasized that it has been picked as a strategic partner to provide open RAN networks for the group across Southeast Asia and South Asia.

According to Axiata, the trials provided a positive demonstration of end-user experience, which it said in some cases proved to be "superior in terms of mobile broadband experience including next generation voice services."


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Thomas Hundt, Axiata's group executive vice president for technology, made it clear that the operator believes open RAN is the future for mobile networks — both for 4G network expansion and new 5G networks.

"Our successful trials in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia prove that open RAN solutions enable greater operational and cost efficiencies using advanced technologies, whilst also meeting the needs of our digital inclusion efforts across the region," Hundt said.

Axiata operates in Malaysia (Celcom), Indonesia (XL), Sri Lanka (Dialog), Bangladesh (Robi), Cambodia (Smart) and Nepal (Ncell), and it serves about 157 million customers. As it waits for 5G to get underway across its footprint, Axiata plans to offer 2G and 4G wireless broadband connectivity over 1800MHz spectrum.

The group is also currently in the process of merging Celcom with Telenor's Digi. The two operators recently signed an agreement on the planned merger of their Malaysian operations.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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