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Airtel to deploy edge computing platform

Bharti Airtel will deploy its multi-access edge compute platform across India to support edge computing applications in manufacturing and other industries, as India gears up for 5G

Bharti Airtel will be deploying a multi-access edge compute (MEC) platform across 120 network datacentres in 20 cities in India, as the country gears up for the arrival of commercial 5G services later this year.

Powered by IBM Cloud Satellite and Red Hat OpenShift, the platform is touted to improve business performance and customer experience by reducing latency while addressing data security and sovereignty requirements.

Airtel said the business value delivered by edge computing can be significantly enhanced when combined with 5G, which is expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1tn in India by 2035.

The telco, which has the largest network of edge datacentres in India under its Nxtra brand, said it will leverage its work with IBM “to help Indian businesses address their critical business needs with greater efficiency, making it significantly easier for companies to process workloads where their data resides”.

For a start, engineering teams from IBM and Airtel will build use cases that leverage Airtel’s 5G connectivity and IBM’s hybrid cloud capabilities. IBM Consulting will lead the systems integration for the MEC platform.

Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest passenger car maker, already plans to use the edge platform to increase accuracy and efficiency for quality inspections on the factory floor. It also expects to boost quality control and ensure data remains protected at the edge.

“At Maruti Suzuki, we continuously strive to meet the highest quality standards by ensuring our processes and quality control are well above industry standards,” said Rajesh Uppal, senior executive director for HR and IT at Maruti Suzuki. “Technology is a key enabler in this journey, helping to boost quality, efficiency, and deliver the next-generation user experience. We are excited to work with Airtel Business and IBM to set an even higher benchmark and explore the vast possibilities of deploying AI [artificial intelligence] and analytics at the edge to augment the expertise of our workforce.”

Read more about 5G in India

Howard Boville, head of IBM Cloud Platform, said as businesses, particularly those in regulated industries, modernise their infrastructures, they need to be able to do so in a way that enables them to stay compliant, without becoming overburdened by their compliance obligations – regardless of where their data resides.

“Teaming with Airtel to bring IBM’s hybrid cloud offerings to their Indian multi-access edge compute customers will help them embrace the opportunities presented by 5G and edge, like innovating with greater speed and security,” he added.

Airtel is working with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung to deploy its 5G network in India, following its successful bid to acquire 5G spectrum in India’s $19bn 5G spectrum auction last month. Airtel spent about $5.4bn for 19867.8MHZ of spectrum in 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 3300 MHz and 26GHz frequencies.

According to research by Ericsson, 5G will enable Indian telcos to generate $17bn in incremental revenue from enterprises by 2030. Much of this is projected to be driven by the adoption of 5G in the manufacturing, energy and utilities, ICT and retail industries.

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