5G Network Development Leveraging RAN Technologies

Janifha Evangeline | Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:29 IST

By leveraging technologies such as virtual and open radio access networks (vRAN/O-RAN), Bharti Airtel popularly known as Airtel will be teaming up with Intel – the largest semiconductor chip maker, for 5G network development. The partnership is part of Bharti Airtel’s 5G future roadmap for India and the organization is transforming its network intending to let customers get the next-gen technologies’ benefits.   

Once 5G is available, there are endless possibilities available such as cloud gaming, AR/VR, and many others, which will eventually become a day-to-day experience. Airtel is the first telco in India to demonstrate 5G over a live network and is conducting 5G trials in major cities.

Open Radio Access Network

An O-RAN - also known as Open Radio Access Network, is a concept, which is based mainly on the interoperability and standardization of RAN elements. What it includes is a unified interconnection standard for white-box hardware with open-source software elements from numerous - diverse vendors.

O-RAN Alliance

Incepted in 2018 by a global consortium of network operators, The O-RAN Alliance was found with an aim to evolving RAN or radio access networks across the globe. And this can be achieved or accomplished via a transition to virtualized network elements and white-box hardware & open interfaces to the radio access networks (RAN).

While the O-RAN ALLIANCE has established 8 distinct/distinct working groups with ambitious technical objectives, it is built on the pillars of intelligence & openness.

Open RAN architecture

While vRAN or Virtualized RAN is the key enabler or key enabling technology for Open RAN architecture, decoupling hardware and software via the application of network function virtualization (NFV) principles lets the RAN not only becoming agile, and flexible but also easier to upgrade. Furthermore, the enhanced efficiency and security intrinsic to Virtualized RAN actually makes vRAN a critical and vital element of O-RAN 5G implementation. And, with complex use cases and access technologies, it entails a dynamic control of network resources.

Trials for 5G technology for telcos

The department of Telecommunications in the month of May 2021, allowed private telcos such as Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm, and Vi as well as MTNL to start trials for 5G technology as well as its applications in diverse segments.

5G the 5th generation mobile network, mainly works in 3 bands – low, high, and mid-frequency spectrums. Unfortunately, the telecom market in India is left with only 3 private telcos, and the rest have surrendered to the low ROI over the years. Other than the private telecommunication companies, the 2 state-run companies BSNL & Mahanagar Telephone Nigham Limited have survived, however they are not making profits.

Therefore, to raise their avg. revenue for every individual user, it is apt for the telephone companies to begin providing the new 5G technology at the earliest. And for that, they will have to conduct trials in a variety of circumstances. This includes semi-urban and rural areas and these remain an untapped market for them.

First telco to demonstrate 5G over a live network

The 1st telco in the country to demonstrate 5G over a live network is Bharti Airtel. Both Bharti Airtel and US chip manufacturer Intel will work for developing a range of Make in India 5G solutions, being members of the O-RAN alliance. And, this will enable telecom infrastructure in India via local partners. O-RAN is anticipated to be a segment of huge innovation and creativity in the years to come.

Randeep Sekhon, CTO – Bharti Airtel said, “Intel’s cutting-edge technologies and experience will contribute immensely to Airtel’s mission of serving India with world-class 5G services. We also look forward to working with Intel and home-grown companies to unlock India’s potential as a global 5G hub”.

India has the world’s second-largest internet population, according to IAMAI – Kantar Cube. The country is led by affordable/cost-effective smartphones & the lowest data tariffs when compared to other countries across the globe. While India’s active interest user base is anticipated to reach 900 million by the year 2025, it is further expected that the advent of 5G will further intensify the digital adoption via industrial and customer use cases.

Dan Rodriguez, Intel corporate vice president, Network Platforms Group said, “Being able to digitally power the vibrant population of India’s connected users requires scalable and agile networks that can evolve to address the growing demands of its users. Airtel is delivering their next-generation enhanced network with a breadth of Intel technology”.

Reliance Jio Teams up with Intel  

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm has commenced a 5G field trial network leveraging its own indigenously built equipment and technology in the capital city of Maharashtra.

“The network went live quickly after receiving a trial spectrum from the DoT (Department of Telecommunications). We are using both mid and mm wavebands with standalone architecture for 5G trials in Mumbai,” a senior Jio executive told ET on condition of anonymity.

The executive mentioned that “the 5G equipment was built in India with the help of local partners, adding that the company’s 5G trial is much bigger (than that of rivals) in terms of sites deployed in Mumbai.”

Of late, the Indian government has requested telecom operators to conduct trials in urban, semi-urban, and rural settings. This is because the government wants the advantage of 5G technology to thrive all over the nation, rather than being restricted to just the urban areas.

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