Airtel Conducts India's First 5G Lab Trial

Bharti Airtel, India's largest service provider, claims to have achieved speeds of 3 Gbit/s in the 5G test trial conducted at its Network Experience Center in Gurugram.

Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) worked with Chinese equipment vendor Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. on this trial, which it claims was India's first in the 5G area. "This is the highest measured throughput for a mobile network in 3.5GHz band with 100MHz bandwidth and end-to-end network latency of approximately 1 millisecond," said Airtel in a press release.

The set-up included a 5G radio access network operating in 3.5GHz spectrum, with a 5G core and a router able to perform network slicing, which allows many different virtual network services to be offered over the same physical infrastructure.

"This is a small but a very significant step in our journey towards 5G," said Abhay Savargaonkar, the director of networks for Airtel. "The promise of 5G is endless, it will be a game changer and it will change the way we live, work and engage. We are moving quickly to begin collaboration towards 5G interoperability and development testing (IODT) based on the 3GPP R15 [Release 15] standards."

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The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) froze specifications for a 5G new radio in December last year. The next set of standards, covering other parts of the technology, is likely to appear later this year.

Airtel's 5G trial followed tests of Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology last year. According to media reports, this test was also carried out with Huawei and formed a part of Airtel's Project Leap, an initiative aimed at transforming networks to cope with new customer demands. Airtel has been under severe competitive pressure from archrival Reliance Jio, which launched services in late 2016.

Keen to make an impact on 5G, India's government hopes to play a role in the current standardization process. Its aim is to see an Indian launch of 5G technology in 2020, in line with other international rollouts. (See India Steps Up Its 5G Efforts .)

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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