The 2,500 large companies and half a million smaller ones served by India's Bharti Airtel represent a huge opportunity for private LTE networks, according to the carrier and its partner Nokia. The two are teaming up to help corporate customers take advantage of technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence using dedicated wireless networks that offer low latency and high reliability.
Terms like ultra-low-latency are often associated with 5G networks, but Nokia and Bharti Airtel said LTE has evolved to a point where it can handle many next-generation industrial applications. For now, LTE clearly is a bigger business opportunity for providers of private wireless networks like Nokia, since more radios are available and more devices support it. But the partners noted that they will also explore the development of 5G use cases for the enterprise.
In Chennai, on India's southeast coast, Nokia and Bharti Airtel are showcasing the fruits of their collaboration at a Nokia telecom equipment factory, where the partners are demonstrating cloud-based robotics, asset management and analytics.
The companies said the industries they will target include financial services, media, manufacturing, distribution and information technology-enabled services. They believe companies in these and other industries will want to leverage cloud services, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things and edge computing.
Private wireless networks are seen by infrastructure providers and carriers as a major opportunity. Nokia says it already runs 120 private wireless networks around the world, and the company's CTO Marcus Weldon recently claimed the business opportunity could be twice as large as the company's current business opportunity in commercial wireless. Competitor Ericsson recently announced plans to market private networks to companies in partnership with consulting giant Capgemini.
For Nokia and Bharti Airtel, the private network initiative is the latest component of a longstanding partnership. Nokia was a primary equipment supplier for the carrier's 4G and 3G rollouts. Bharti Airtel is also deploying Nokia's Nuage Networks to upgrade its data centers.
— Martha DeGrasse, special to Light Reading. Follow her @mardegrasse