Reliance Jio, its wholly-owned subsidiary Radisys Corporation, and chipmaker Qualcomm are developing 5G solutions based on the open and interoperable radio access network (RAN) architecture. Reliance Industries, which owns Jio, claimed that this will fast track the rollout of indigenous 5G networks in India. Open RAN essentially allows building parts of a mobile network using hardware and software developed by different vendors.
Using Qualcomm’s technology, Jio has developed a 5G RAN product which has achieved over 1 Gbps of throughput, which is the actual amount of data that is sent or received over a communication link. This product has already been tested by a tier-1 carrier in the US, Mathew Oommen, president of Reliance Jio Infocomm said while speaking at the Qualcomm 5G Summit on Tuesday. He didn’t reveal the name of the US carrier he was referring to.
It was recently reported that Jio is working to launch 5G handsets for as low as ₹5,000, an apparent attempt by the company to reach people who’re still on 2G networks, and as a result outside Jio’s ecosystem which doesn’t support older technologies like 2G and 3G.
What is open RAN? Open RAN is an industry term for open radio access network architecture. As per an Ericosson blog post, this includes RAN with open and interoperable interfaces, virtual RAN, and Big Data and AI-enabled RAN, among others. An industry alliance called the O-RAN Alliance is responsible for publishing new specifications for RAN, and release open source software for its members. Airtel, Jio, Vodafone, among other mobile operators are part of the O-RAN Alliance. It should be noted that concerns have been raised about the takeover of open RAN by a few companies, much like how Google took over an open source platform like Android, and gained control over it.
An already established standard, called the third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), is also responsible for developing protocols for mobile telecommunications. All current mobile communication is based on 3GPP standards. Like open RAN, 3GPP also enables an open and multi-vendor mobile network, but per the Ericsson blog, open RAN “is an extension of the 3GPP standard, both in terms of network functions aspects, as well as network implementation aspects”.
Jio’s 5G pitch: The development is also significant as it comes before India enters its 5G trials. Jio has previously touted that its network doesn’t have a single Chinese component — an argument the company made when US’s scrutiny of Huawei was perhaps at its peak. Since then, Jio has said it is ready to deploy 5G network trials in India as soon as spectrum is available. Airtel, too, signed a multi-year deal with Sweden’s Ericsson to supply 5G-ready solutions. India has banned more than 200 Chinese-owned apps since June, following skirmishes at the border with China.
The Indian government, at least so far, hasn’t ruled out Huawei’s participation in the 5G trials, however, media reports have suggested that it is considering to prohibit Chinese companies from providing telecom equipment to state-run telcos BSNL and MTNL. Then in July, the Department of Telecommunications cancelled a tender for upgrading BSNL’s 4G network, reportedly to exclude Chinese companies from bidding. However, it is worth noting that more than half of BSNL’s telecom equipment is from Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei. Also, during a call with investors, Airtel’s CEO Gopal Vittal said that although the company values its partnerships with all vendors, it will comply with any government order.
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