Airtel, Qualcomm team up to accelerate 5G in India

5G in India

India-based operator Bharti Airtel announced on Monday that it has partnered with American chipmaker Qualcomm to accelerate 5G within the country shortly following Airtel’s demonstration of 5G services in Hyderabad over its live 4G network.

The deal will allow the operator to effectively utilize Qalcomm’s 5G RAN platforms, through its network vendors and device partners, to roll-out virtualized and Open RAN-based 5G networks and applications for Industry 4.0 use cases and for driving innovations for Airtel’s global operations.

“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,” Randeep Sekhon, chief technology officer at Bharti Airtel, said in a joint statement.

In parallel, the partnership will also include a collaboration to enable a wide array of use cases, including 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) that is designed to deliver broadband connectivity at Gigabit speeds to homes and businesses.

“This collaboration also aims to allow a faster rollout of broadband services in a cost effective and expeditious manner across India for ‘last mile’ connectivity challenges that are becoming increasingly important in today’s remote, mobile-first society,” the statement read.

It is worth mentioning that this is Qualcomm’s second partnership within India’s telecom sector, as it attempts to bolster its presence within a very key telecommunications market.

The previous deal took place back in October 2020, when Jio along with its wholly owned subsidiary Radisys Corporation teamed up with the U.S.-based chipmaker 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 is looking to follow that success with its 5G solutions including FWA services to match the delivery of multi-gigabit internet speeds wirelessly to customers and open up a wide range of innovations.

“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.

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

According to the statement, Airtel – which is a member of the O-RAN Alliance, expressed its commitment to driving the success of O-RAN and is working with Qualcomm Technologies to explore and implement the O-RAN approach for 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,” it added.