Bharti Airtel and Qualcomm Technologies announced their intention of accelerating 5G in India, but it remains to be seen how fast they can roll it out without 5G spectrum allocations.
Airtel, India’s second largest telecom service provider by subscribers, is using Qualcomm’s 5G RAN Platform to roll out virtualized and open Radio Access Network (RAN)-based 5G networks in India.
Airtel sees the flexible and scalable nature of open RAN as creating new opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to become viable players in the deployment of 5G networks. Airtel and Qualcomm also plan to enable an array of use cases, including 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).
Airtel, as a board member of the O-RAN Alliance, said it’s committed to driving the success of O-RAN and is working with Qualcomm to explore and implement the O-RAN approach for India. The O-RAN Alliance originally was founded by AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DoCoMo and Orange. Airtel was among new members that joined in 2018.
Qualcomm said its 5G Fixed Wireless Access Platform supports virtually any combination of 5G spectrum bands and modes, from extended-range high power sub-6 to extended-range millimeter wave.
4G & 5G
Last month, Airtel announced it was the country’s first telco to successfully demonstrate and orchestrate live 5G service over a commercial network. The demo took place in the city of Hyderabad, and it used spectrum in the 1800 MHz band through non-stand-alone (NSA) technology. It also featured dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), so Airtel could operate 5G and 4G concurrently within the same spectrum block.
Airtel pointed out that 5G is capable of delivering 10x speeds when compared to existing technology. Users in the demo were able to download a full-length movie in a matter of seconds on a 5G phone. However, the 5G service isn’t available to everyone yet. That will come “when adequate spectrum is available and government approvals received,” the operator said.
Reuters reported that while the country is set to auction some airwaves in March, bands supporting 5G won’t be auctioned until sometime in the next six months.
Qualcomm is also helping Reliance Jio, India’s largest operator, on the rollout of its 5G. Qualcomm Ventures last year announced an investment in Jio Platforms, deepening the ties between Qualcomm and Jio to support its journey to roll out advanced 5G infrastructure.
Jio set a target date of the second half of 2021 for its 5G rollout. Airtel didn’t say when it expects to launch commercial 5G.