TCS and AIRTEL collaborate for “Made in India” 5G
Telecommunication company Bharti Airtel and IT subsidiary of Tata Group, Tata Consultancy Services entered a strategic partnership to provide 5G network solutions in India. In the partnership, Airtel will use TCS’s 5G architecture to rollout 5G in India and subsequently export the technology to other countries as well. The partnership will help to boost innovation and manufacturing in India which is currently the second largest telecom market in the world.
What is 5G?
5G is fifth generation cellular technology. It is a next generation wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.
Most of us are aware that 5G will deliver multi-Gbps peak data speed which is many folds higher than 4G. Not only that but it will also provide ultra low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users. We should understand that 5G will not only allow us to download a movie within seconds in a crowded stadium but also transform industries and advance society by virtually connecting everyone and everything including but not limited to machines, objects, and devices. It can make business more efficient by creating logistic networks that autonomously route goods based on real-world conditions. 5G can open cutting-edge ways of improving safety and sustainability, such as more connected vehicles sharing data to prevent road collisions and faster deployment of emergency services to accidents. 5G can take both education and entertainment to another level by greater realism in virtual reality and augmented reality with lighter devices. This is just a small glimpse of what 5G can do but more importantly, 5G can open a path for innovation and more advanced technologies.
A technical dose
The cellular wireless network comprises two domains: the Radio Access Network (RAN) and the Core Network (Core). A radio access network (RAN) is the visible piece of network that consists of radio base stations with large antennas. A RAN is the final link between the network and the phone. The core performs many functions such as authenticating users for the services they are using, enabling operators to charge for calls and data use, and connecting users to the rest of the world via the Internet. Earlier it was deprioritized to have separate vendors for RAN equipments due to lack of interoperability. To solve this problem the operators disintegrated the RAN into building blocks. ORAN (open radio access network) is “opens” the protocols and interfaces between these various building blocks in the RAN.
What does the Partnership entail?
TCS has developed a ‘state of art’ ORAN based radio and NSA/SA Core and has integrated a totally indigeneous telecom stack, leveraging the Group capabilities and that of its partners, said the statement issued by both the companies. These technologies will be available for commercial development from January 2022.
ORAN (Open Radio Access Network), refers to a new standard where cellular radio networks are composed of hardware and software components supplied by various vendors. These components are designed to operate over standardized network interfaces that are open and interoperable.
An ORAN expands the ecosystem by allowing more vendors to provide the building blocks, this leads to more innovation and more options for the Operators. Though ORAN increases competition amongst vendors thus reduces the overall cost of the network, it requires an integrator to power the network. Therefore, TCS plays an important role in partnership by providing its system integration capability.
Airtel will pilot and deploy this indigenous solution as part of its 5G rollout plans in India and start the pilot in January 2022, as per the guidelines formulated by the Government of India. These ‘Made in India’ 5G products and solutions are aligned to global standards and interoperate with other products based on standard open interfaces and those defined by the O-RAN Alliance, said the statement issued by both companies.
O-RAN ALLIANCE is a German entity established in 2018 which has mobile network operators, vendors, and research and academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network (RAN) industry as its members. It publishes new RAN specifications, releases open software for the RAN, and supports its members in the integration and testing of their implementations. Airtel is a Board member of the O-RAN Alliance and TCS too is a member of O-RAN Alliance.
The 5G solutions, once successfully test and commercially proven in Airtel’s network, will open export opportunities for India. These 5G technologies will also be used in Airtel’s operation outside India like Sri Lanka and Kenya.
5G in India
Currently there are three major telecom companies in India namely Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio. With financial constraints on Voda Idea, the race for providing 5G solutions in India is mainly between Airtel and Jio. The partnership could provide a significant morale booster to Airtel which is competing with Jio and the global partners of its parent Jio Platforms. It will also help Airtel to counter Jio’s own indigeneous technology that has open and interoperable interface compliant architecture based 5G solutions with a virtualized RAN which it developed in partnership with Qualcomm.
Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and MTNL have started conducting 5G trials through spectrum allocated to them by the Department of Telecommunication. DoT approved of trials with Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT. The government of India left out Chinese Companies like Huawei and ZTE from the 5G Technology trials due to network security concerns. Airtel is the first telecom company in India to demonstrate 5G over its LIVE network in the city of Hyderabad.The partnership reflects the government’s Make in India approach for 5G solutions. Chinese companies Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. and European companies like Nokia and Ericsson have dominated the 5G technologies market across the globe. The TCS-Airtel Partnership can counter this Chinese and European dominance and make India an exporter of 5G technologies.
Though the government said that 5G should be tested in both urban and rural areas but the trials are only being done in Metropolitan cities. Also spectrum was not allocated to companies for 5G trials in state of Punjab , Haryana and the union territory of Chandigarh.
With the trials underway and the cutthroat competition between Telecom Companies, one thing is certain that the 5G spectrum auction which is to be held in late 2021 - early 2022 will be the most awaited event of this financial year.