Open RAN is still too new for Indian telcos right now

open ran telcos
Image by K_O_A | Bigstockphoto

Open RAN technology hasn’t seen much traction among Indian telcos despite initial enthusiasm due to apprehensions around its maturity, said a senior executive at Japanese IT networks and systems integrator NEC.

Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel had previously talked about their focus on Open RAN to introduce flexibility into their networks and cut down reliance on a handful of telecom vendors.

Jio has said that it is committed to its strategy to develop an end-to-end 5G stack based on open technologies, and that some elements of it are already part of its live network.

Airtel too said that Open RAN will be ready to form a part of its live 5G network towards the end of fiscal 2023, as the technology is still maturing and cost reduction will take time.

Airtel was reportedly working with Mavenir, Xilinx, Japan’s Altiostar, NEC and Sercom to develop equipment using Open RAN technology. The telco had earlier produced its own 4G small cells by collaborating with Altiostar and Sercom.

However, both top Indian telecom operators awarded initial 5G network contacts to Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.

Open RAN is too new

“Why [Open RAN] has not seen the traction that it would have been seeing by now is because of the inherent concern that any operator would have for deploying a technology that is new,” Shiv Kumar Singh, chief operating officer of NEC India, was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

However, he added that open and disaggregated networks are being deployed globally and India will follow suit once the technology matures.

NEC is currently talking to all three Indian telecom operators to supply Open RAN technology.

“When the operators are ready to deploy Open RAN, we will be the first ones. We will accordingly announce at the right time,” Singh said.

NEC also pitching E-band solutions

NEC said that it can supply new radio units, wireless and optical backhaul equipment and E-band radio, according to the operator’s requirements.

The company is also in talks with Bharti Airtel to supply E-band solutions. The telco has already awarded initial E-band related contracts to Aviat Networks and Ceragon Networks.

“We have over 100,000 such links deployed for the traditional microwave. And the same story I’m very confident will be repeated for E-band,” Singh said.

Related article: Is vRAN a viable alternative to pure open RAN?

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