Nokia’s Nishant Batra says Indian telcos won’t become full-fledged vendors

Nishant Batra Nokia
Image by eric1513 | Bigstockphoto

Nokia’s chief strategy and technology officer, Nishant Batra, said that the Indian telecom operators — Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel — would not become full-fledged vendors even as they are currently making efforts to build a local 5G stack.

“Certain operators in India have more competence than others, but I actually don’t see any of them start manufacturing radios. I don’t see any operator being a full vendor. In certain cases, they will take on certain capabilities,” Batra said in an interview with the Economic Times.

Batra added that Indian telecom operators would have to build system integration (SI) capabilities to go towards disaggregated networks leveraging the OpenRAN technology. “They have to see if they have it (SI) in-house or they outsource it.”

Reliance Jio has claimed to have developed an end-to-end 5G stack, including radio and core, with the help of Radisys, which it acquired in 2018. Its arch-rival, Bharti Airtel, has recently announced a partnership with Tata Group to develop 5G solutions, including radios indigenously. 

Tata Group’s OpenRAN-based 5G solutions will be available for commercial development starting January 2022. The Sunil Mittal-led telco said that it would pilot and deploy this solution as part of its 5G rollout plans in India. 

Nokia is ensuring that its products are ready for “disaggregated” technologies to capture the value shift in the global telecom market, Batra said.

“I actually also see that this value shift creates an opportunity because if we move this disaggregation towards software in a good way, it will allow for new software models to occur not just in telecom operators’ space but beyond,” he said.

The senior Nokia executive, who previously served Sweden’s Ericsson in various roles, also countered India’s plan to develop its own 5G standard, called 5Gi, and said that it could increase the cost of providing connectivity. 

“There have been instances in previous generations of technologies for markets bigger than India trying to diversify the standard for local use. That didn’t pan out very well. So, globally harmonised standards are the right way,” he said.

The Finnish telecom gear maker is the largest vendor with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea in total 4G radios deployed. Besides tapping the 5G radio opportunity, the company is also seeing “big opportunities” in the areas of tower ‘fiberisation’, fixed broadband and network IP transformation with existing telecom operator partners. 

“The conversations are now evolving to do network slicing and will continue to evolve towards 5G core enablement of enterprise in India,” he further told the publication. 

The company previously claimed that it rolled out about 120,000 network sites in India in 2020 and has deployed 55,000 sites till May 2021 with its partners, especially Bharti Airtel. It is currently running 5G pilots with both Airtel and Vodafone Idea in several Indian cities. 

Related article: Telcos, gear vendors want India to stop adoption of local 5G standard

Tussle continues over local 5G standard in India, 5Gi

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