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India, US formulate open RAN roadmap

The US-India open RAN acceleration roadmap has been released – though Indian telcos continue to ignore the technology.

Gagandeep Kaur

January 18, 2024

2 Min Read
Neon 'open' sign
(Source: Super Straho/Unsplash)

The Indian government has formulated the US-India OpenRAN Acceleration Roadmap with the US, the Ministry of Communications said in a statement recently.

"This milestone agreement promotes collaboration for interoperability and scaled deployments of OpenRAN products. Both sides concurred on joint efforts in Next Generation Communication Technologies, marking a significant stride towards global technological advancement," says the statement.

During his recent visit to the US, Neeraj Mittal, secretary of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), met with Ann Neuberger, the US deputy national security advisor to frame and release the roadmap.

"Yesterday, the U.S. & India took a critical step in accelerating the development and deployment of secure telecom networks, within iCET. We finalized the U.S.-India Industry Task Force's Open RAN Acceleration Roadmap, to drive innovation and competition in the telecom industry," wrote Adrienne Watson, spokesperson of the White House National Security Council on social media.

While the roadmap was not shared by the DoT, it is fair to say that adoption of open RAN has been slow in India. Though service providers Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have conducted a few trials, the technology was conspicuously absent from the 5G deals announced in 2022.

Telco reluctance

Open RAN is one of the focus areas for the US government, which invested $1.5 billion to develop the technology last year. Several open RAN vendors, including Mavenir and Parallel Wireless, are based in the US. Last year, in a landmark deal, AT&T announced that it will spend $14 billion over the next five years to adopt open RAN technology.

Last year, India's Bharat 6G Alliance and US-based NextG Alliance, part of the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, signed an agreement to collaborate in the fields of open RAN and research in 5G and 6G. "A 5G Open RAN pilot in a leading Indian telecom operator will be undertaken by a US Open RAN manufacturer before field deployment," a joint statement by the White House said.

Now, the US-India OpenRAN Acceleration Roadmap appears to be another effort at encouraging Indian telcos to adopt and deploy the technology. Recently, Mavenir's India head Sanjay Bakaya said in an interview with an Indian publication that open RAN deployment is likely to pick up pace in 2024 in India.

The country's 5G deployments are, however, more or less complete, with Jio recently announcing pan-India coverage and Airtel likely to reach that target by March this year. As a result, open RAN deployment this year is likely to be incremental at best. 

There is a reluctance among the Indian telcos to deploy the technology because it is perceived as being yet to mature. At the same time, this can change with AT&T's recent deal, which may inspire Indian telcos to deploy the technology.  

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About the Author(s)

Gagandeep Kaur

Contributing Editor

With more than a decade of experience, Gagandeep Kaur Sodhi has worked for the most prominent Indian communications industry publications including Dataquest, Business Standard, The Times of India, and Voice&Data, as well as for Light Reading. Delhi-based Kaur, who has knowledge of and covers a broad range of telecom industry developments, regularly interacts with the senior management of companies in India's telecom sector and has been directly responsible for delegate and speaker acquisition for prominent events such as Mobile Broadband Summit, 4G World India, and Next Generation Packet Transport Network.

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