NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel on Tuesday said it has partnered with American chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. for 5G rollout in India. This comes shortly after Airtel’s demonstration of 5G services in Hyderabad over its live 4G network.

An O-RAN board member, Airtel said it will leverage Qualcomm’s 5G RAN Platforms to rollout virtualized and Open-RAN 5G networks in India.

“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,” an official statement said.

The two companies will additionally collaborate to enable a new array of use cases such as 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) while seeking to allow a faster rollout of broadband services across the country in an affordable manner.

This is Qualcomm’s second partnership with a telco in India. In October 2020, Jio along with its wholly-owned subsidiary Radisys Corporation, in partnership with Qualcomm developed open and interoperable interface compliant architecture based 5G solutions with a virtualized RAN.

Jio and Qualcomm had then achieved over a 1 Gbps milestone on the Reliance Jio 5GNR solution, leveraging the Qualcomm 5G RAN Platforms.

“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 Technologies’ 5G leadership, we will be well placed to usher India into the next era of hyper-fast and ultra-low latency digital connectivity,” said Randeep Sekhon, CTO, Bharti Airtel.

Qualcomm 5G Fixed Wireless Access Platform is said to support any combination of 5G spectrum bands and modes, from extended-range high power sub-6 to extended-range mmWave.

Airtel said through its network vendors and device partners it will utilize the capabilities of these platforms for accelerating the development of 5G applications for Industry 4.0 use cases and for driving innovations for its global operations.

“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. 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,” said Rajen Vagadia, Vice President, Qualcomm India.

“This is a very timely partnership to help operators such as Airtel build a cost-effective 5G network leveraging Open RAN technologies and the sheer scale of Airtel’s network gives Qualcomm tremendous scale to extend its technology leadership beyond smart devices into the network infrastructure domain. It is great to see both companies collaborating on cellular FWA to potentially bring high-speed broadband to tens of millions of homes to captialize on the pent-up home broadband demand due to the pandemic,” Neil Shah, Vice President and partner at Counterpoint Research told ET.

As per Counterpoint estimates, 5G FWA will power close to 20 million households by end of this decade and will accelerate faster from then on.

All three private Indian telcos are eyeing OpenRAN as a viable method to cut network-related costs and bring in more customisations as they upgrade their networks to 5G technology. They are in touch with various companies like NEC, Altiostar and Mavenir among others.




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