India's Airtel ties up with Qualcomm for open RAN 5G

India's second-largest service provider, Bharti Airtel, has forged an alliance with global chip-maker Qualcomm Technologies to roll out virtualized and open RAN-based 5G networks.

This development follows Airtel conducting a 5G test using 1800MHz spectrum over a live commercial network.

The two companies will also work together to enable several 5G use cases, including 5G fixed wireless access (FWA), which is believed to be one of the most appropriate for a developing country like India.

Elephant in the room: Airtel is not the first company in India to tie up with Qualcomm.  (Source: Unsplash)
Elephant in the room: Airtel is not the first company in India to tie up with Qualcomm.
(Source: Unsplash)

"This collaboration also aims to allow a faster rollout of broadband services in a cost effective and expeditious manner across India for 'last mile' connectivity challenges that are becoming increasingly important in today's remote, mobile-first society," says the press note.

Expanding alliances

Qualcomm already has an alliance with Reliance Jio's wholly-owned subsidiary, Radisys. Jio and Qualcomm jointly developed a 5G solution with a virtualized RAN.

Jio has conducted a trial and achieved a speed of over 1 Gbit/s on the Jio 5GNR solution using the Qualcomm 5G RAN platform.

Airtel has deployed Altiostar's open RAN solution. The company is a board member of the O-RAN Alliance, and had recently conducted the region's first plugfest. Airtel and Qualcomm will work together to "explore and implement the O-RAN approach for India."

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"The flexible and scalable architecture of O-RAN will create new opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to become viable players in the deployment of 5G networks," says the press release.

Airtel and Jio want to gain the upper hand by being the first ones to launch 5G services in the country.

The competition seems to have heightened after Jio announced that it plans to launch 5G in the second half of this year.

However, with Airtel successfully conducting a trial and now forming an alliance with Qualcomm, it is clear that it's not going to be a one-horse race to 5G.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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