Bharti Airtel has taken its initial steps towards its OpenRAN journey in India by awarding business to US-based Mavenir to reduce deployment costs in areas where consumers typically spend less on telecom services.
Mavenir tasked for 4G and 5G
Mavenir is now tasked to deploy 4G and 5G sites in rural parts of the country. Airtel plans to deploy 2500 sites initially and scale the deployment with 10,000 sites running on OpenRAN technology, the Economic Times reported citing industry sources.
The deployment order was awarded to Mavenir after pilot runs of 4G and 5G Open RAN solutions on select sites in Haryana and Punjab.
“Airtel is driving forward OpenRAN deployment into our rural markets…it is a 4G/5G overlay using a stack built in India. So that’s 2500 sites, in the first part, going to 10,000 sites. The disaggregation of the radio using open technologies will benefit TCO,” an industry source told the publication.
The Sunil Mittal-led telecom operator had earlier shared its ambition regarding the OpenRAN technology and had started working with various companies. It previously explored collaboration with technology companies from India, the US, Taiwan and Japan to build a complete OpenRAN-based 5G stack. Some partners are Mavenir, Xilinx, Altiostar, NEC and Sercom.
Airtel had previously developed its own 4G small cells by collaborating with Altiostar and Sercom.
However, it awarded 5G network contracts to Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung worth $2.5 billion to launch commercial 5G services in October last year.
Europe’s Nokia and Samsung cornered 90% of the 5G network share, while Samsung secured the rest of the network deal from Airtel.
OpenRAN will form a part of its live 5G network
Airtel’s CTO Randeep Sekhon previously disclosed that OpenRAN will form a part of its live 5G network towards the 2023 fiscal year and had said that the telco finalised contracts with vendors for OpenRAN deployments.
“…OpenRAN’s readiness to serve a larger scale will happen towards the end of 2023 because we want the total cost of ownership to come down. OpenRAN allows you to mix the best technologies from different partners…we have a set of ecosystem partners with which this will get launched,” Sekhon told the media.
Airtel’s 5G services are available in 3500 towns, and by March 2024, it plans to make its 5G services available in 7000 towns and nearly 100,000 villages.
Bharti Airtel uses non-standalone architecture
Bharti Airtel uses non-standalone architecture (NSA) for its 5G services to corner 5G users quickly due to the broader availability of supportive 5G devices. Reliance Jio has adopted the standalone architecture (SA) for its 5G network and is marketing the service as True 5G.
Jio, too, has awarded 5G contracts to Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson to procure 5G equipment.
As per the report, Pardeep Kohli, President and CEO at Mavenir, said in March that the company was discussing with two Indian telecom operators to deploy 4G and 5G OpenRAN technology commercially.