Vodafone Idea has reportedly begun talks with non-traditional domestic and multinational telecom gear vendors and systems integrators for its upcoming 5G network rollouts in India.
The third ranked telecom operator by subscribers intends to explore equipment sourcing options for its 5G network with an aim to negate potential cost implications of sourcing from European vendors Nokia and Ericsson.
“Yes, we are talking to a few local vendors and some international players. We want to explore options for our network to avoid any duopoly of Nokia and Ericsson and to see the cost benefits in future,” a senior Vodafone Idea executive was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.
The company said it is concerned about the participation of Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE in India’s 5G network buildout – a large portion of Vodafone Idea’s 4G network has been supplied by Chinese vendors, but the extent to which the Indian government will allow them to bid for 5G contracts remains uncertain. With Nokia and Ericsson considered a costly alternative to Huawei and ZTE, Vodafone Idea is now looking at other options.
Vodafone Idea’s strategy isn’t unique – its bigger rivals have already been devising their respective strategies to explore options beyond traditional vendors.
For example, top ranked Reliance Jio claims to have readied its indigenously developed 5G stack, including radio and core equipment, and is currently piloting the technology across various cities.
Airtel has also started executing its collaboration-led strategy with various local new-age telecom vendors, including Tata Sons and Tata Consultancy Services. Tata Sons subsidiary Panatone recently acquired home-bred Tejas Networks to bolster its telecom stack.
Airtel is also developing 5G network technologies in India through its own R&D and in collaboration with local, US and Japanese firms. It is planning to bring together a large ecosystem of partners, including US firms Mavenir, Xilinx and Altiostar (owned by Japan’s Rakuten), Japan’s NEC and Taiwan’s Sercom.
The report said that Vodafone Idea is also starting discussions with the same set of companies.
As per the report, Vodafone Idea is betting big on the OpenRAN technology for its 5G networks and sees it maturing in the next three to four years. It has commercially deployed OpenRAN-based sites, IMS and packet core in partnership with Mavenir in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
“We are closely monitoring the OpenRAN-related developments in other markets and have started talks with some global vendors and system integrators that are focused on this new approach of deploying networks,” the company source informed the publication.