Bharti Airtel, Qualcomm team to advance 5G Open RAN in India

Subcontinent’s premier communication systems provider announces partnership with leading provider of communications chips and chipsets to accelerate the adoption of next-generation networks in India

Just after becoming India’s first telco to demonstrate 5G over a live commercial network in the city of Hyderabad, global communication systems provider Bharti Airtel has begun a collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies to accelerate 5G in the country.

Airtel has operations in 18 countries across South Asia and Africa, ranking among the top three mobile operators globally, with a mobile network covering a population of more than two billion people. It is India’s largest integrated telecoms provider and the second-largest mobile operator in Africa.

At the end of December 2020, Airtel had about 458 million customers across its operations and had a portfolio that includes: high-speed 4G/4.5G mobile broadband; Airtel Xstream Fibre, which promises speeds up to 1Gbps; converged digital TV systems through the Airtel Xstream 4K Hybrid Box; digital payments through Airtel Payments Bank; and an integrated suite of services across connectivity, collaboration, cloud and security that serves more than a million businesses.

Airtel has also forged strategic partnerships with hundreds of companies across the world to enable the Airtel platform to deliver consumer and enterprise services. In this latest partnership, Airtel says it will work with its network suppliers and device customers to use Qualcomm 5G RAN platforms to roll out virtualised and Open RAN-based 5G networks.

Airtel, as a board member of the O-RAN Alliance, is committed to driving the success of O-RAN and is working with Qualcomm to explore and implement the O-RAN approach for India. The companies say the flexible and scalable architecture of O-RAN will create new opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to become viable players in the deployment of 5G networks.

Also, Airtel and Qualcomm say they are collaborating to enable a wide array of use cases, including 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), designed to deliver broadband connectivity at gigabit speeds to homes and businesses. Airtel 5G technology including FWA services will be able to deliver multi-gigabit internet speeds wirelessly to customers and open up a wide range of innovations.

The collaboration also aims to allow a faster roll-out of broadband services in a cost-effective and expeditious manner across India for “last mile” connectivity challenges that the two firms say are becoming increasingly important in today’s remote, mobile-first society.

They add that for customers, ultra-fast and low-latency 5G will unlock a digital world of “limitless possibilities”, with gigabit-size file downloads in seconds and 4K video streaming on the go across smartphones and computing devices, immersive technologies such as virtual reality, and smart homes with connected things.

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Randeep Sekhon, chief technology officer at Bharti Airtel, said: “Airtel has been a pioneer of new technologies and our networks are fully ready for 5G. We are delighted to have Qualcomm Technologies as a key technology provider in our journey to roll out world-class 5G in India.

“With Airtel’s integrated service portfolio and Qualcomm’s 5G leadership, we will be well placed to usher India into the next era of hyper-fast and ultra-low-latency digital connectivity.”

Rajen Vagadia, vice-president and president, Qualcomm India, added: “There is a compelling case to accelerate the roll-out of 5G networks in India, as it will help fast-track the country’s socio-economic growth and development.

“We are pleased to be working with Airtel, and we are excited by the opportunity ahead. This collaboration is expected to play a critical role in Airtel’s plans to add 5G network coverage and capacity where and when it is needed the most.”

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