In an interaction with ET’s Danish Khan, Jagbir Singh, Chief Technology Officer of Vodafone Idea said that the telecom operator has a good amount of spectrum to build a strong coverage layer for 5G. He added that the mid-band spectrum needs to be made available at a reasonable price. Edited Excerpts
How is Vodafone idea preparing for the 5G technology? What is your network strategy?
5G deployment initially is going to be NSA. So basically it is going to be a combined core for 4G and 5G. We have a good amount of spectrum in the 1800-2100 MHz bands, which can be used as a coverage layer. A lot of new spectrum is needed to give experience on 5G, but for coverage, we have the right spectrum available with us.
We are ensuring that whatever equipment we have deployed in the past two to three years is ready for 5G. This hardware will require the new software upgrade and can be done as in when we get the spectrum.
Secondly, we can use our dynamic spectrum sharing as a feature between the 4g and 5g. This has already been tested and deployed in our network for 4g. We can deploy 5G using the DSS
Thirdly, we can do carrier aggregation between the FDD and TDD technologies to deploy 5g services to get the benefit of the spectrums to give the better throughput and better experience for the customer.
We will also focus on automation to be able to offer the services like network slicing.
How about spectrum pricing?
5G is going to be very relevant for the Indian market. While I don’t want to talk about any commercial, I think the spectrum needs to be available at a reasonable price to enable the company like us actually to afford the deployment.
Is Vodafone Idea’s core and transport network layer 5G ready?
I will not say that we are completely ready but we are moving that direction. The core network being deployed is all based on the cloud. It is all virtualized whether the EPC, IMS or other functions.
Additionally, we have over 200 data centers in India which can be used to deploy the core functions closer to the customer, which could be used to offer low latency services, and also can help in doing the edge computing.
Our core network, which is cloud based, is actually ready for the NSA deployment architecture. There won’t be any problem in integrating the SA architecture with the current existing NSA.
What are your views on OpenRAN technology?
The disaggregation of hardware and software will give the benefit to use the hardware, which is based on open source and any vendor can supply that. And you can buy the software from any other vendor. This will offer flexibility of deployment, thereby reduction in cost.
This is the right direction for the industry to move on.
The initial deployment will be a mix of openRAN and integrated RAN for initial years but everything’s going to be virtualized in the longer run.
What’s your take on 5G use cases?
Fixed wireless access and enhanced mobile broadband are some main use cases of 5G globally. However, there are use cases for consumers as well as for the enterprise. For consumers, AR/VR and cloud gaming could be big use cases. There are use cases being explored in the areas of agriculture, health, manufacturing, utilities and energy. Additionally, automation of the factories, plants, health sector, agriculture sectors will be driven by 5G.
Is there a need for a deeper collaboration between telecom operators and various industries to develop 5G use cases?
The answer is yes. There’s a lot of coordination and the co-working required to develop the whole ecosystem, including IoT devices, sensors, software, base stations, cloud applications.
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