Bharti Airtel will pilot and deploy 5G network solutions locally developed by Tata Group as part of its fifth-generation mobile service rollout plans for the country.
The partnership to implement 5G solutions will allow Airtel to reduce the cost of 5G deployment as the Tata solution is based on Open RAN (radio access network), analysts said.
Open RAN as a concept enables hardware and software to be disaggregated, unlike conventional radio gears, allowing technology products from different suppliers to coexist with various software providers.
Tata Group’s Open RAN-based 5G solutions will be available for commercial development starting January 2022. Airtel’s pilot will start in the same month.
“We are delighted to join forces with the Tata Group to make India a global hub for 5G and allied technologies,”
Gopal Vittal, managing director (India and South Asia) of Bharti Airtel, said in the joint statement.
He said the partnership will provide a big boost to India becoming an innovation and manufacturing destination. “With its world-class technology ecosystem and talent pool, India is well positioned to build cutting-edge solutions and applications for the world.”
The 5G solutions, once commercially proven in Airtel’s brownfield network, will open export opportunities for India, which is now the second largest telecom market in the world, the statement said. N Ganapathy Subramaniam, chairman of Tata Elxsi and chief operating officer of Tata Consultancy Services, said, “As a group, we are excited about the opportunity presented by 5G and adjacent possibilities. We are committed to building a world-class networking equipment and solutions business to address these opportunities in networking space.”
Ashwinder Sethi, principal at management consultancy Analysys Mason, said, “Airtel’s strategic partnership with Tata could allow it to reduce its cost of 5G deployment and thus help support the business case for 5G rollout, which has been challenging for operator’s globally.”
With Open RAN architecture, companies can get hardware such as radio made from contract manufacturers. Bharti Enterprises, parent of Airtel, has already inked a pact to form a joint venture with Dixon to manufacture telecom and networking products.
Airtel’s rival Reliance Jio, meanwhile, is pursuing in-house 5G solutions through a mix of organic and inorganic approaches.
Jio said it has developed its own end-to-end telecom stack comprising radios and core technologies, which it is currently piloting in Mumbai and intends to commercially deploy once 5G spectrum is available commercially.