India’s Bharti Airtel taps Intel for 4G, 5G vRAN

India
Airtel boasts more than 345 million subscribers in India. (Pixabay)

Intel and Bharti Airtel announced a collaboration toward virtualized radio access network (vRAN) and open RAN technology on Airtel’s path to 5G.

The companies announced that they will work to evolve Airtel’s networks from “fixed-function equipment” to virtualized cloud-native deployments and enable edge-to-cloud communications.

“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,” said Dan Rodriguez, Intel corporate VP, Network Platforms Group, in a statement. “Airtel is delivering their next-generation enhanced network with a breadth of Intel technology, including Intel Xeon Scalable processors and FlexRAN software to optimize RAN workloads with embedded intelligence, to scale their infrastructure and deliver on the promise of a connected India.”

Besides the latest Xeon Scalable processors and FlexRAN reference architecture, Airtel will be using Intel's FPGAs and eASICs, as well as its Ethernet 800 Series. 

Airtel boasts more than 345 million subscribers. It’s ranked second among India's three major mobile network operators, the largest being Reliance Jio. No. 3 is Vodafone Idea Limited.

Airtel has been lauded as the first telecom operator in India to demonstrate 5G over a live network; it's conducting 5G trials in major cities. 

Modernizing its network will help meet the varying bandwidth and latency needs of that subscriber base. “By providing the foundation for wide-scale enhanced mobile broadband, mobile edge computing and network slicing, Airtel can offer new services for consumers while programming its network to yield long-term cost optimizations,” according to a press release.

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Both companies are members of the O-RAN Alliance and have vowed to work closely to develop a range of homegrown 5G solutions, including through work with local partners.