Intel, a key stakeholder in the 5G ecosystem, has partnered with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio as the country prepares to launch commercial services. Prakash Mallya, VP & MD – sales, marketing & communications group, Intel India, spoke to FE’s Kiran Rathee about the various opportunities around 5G and how Intel can play a role in transforming the country. Edited excerpts:
As Intel eyes becoming a significant stakeholder in the 5G ecosystem in India, why isn’t the company participating in 5G trials currently happening in the country?
Most operators in the country leverage Intel technology in their infrastructure platform as part of the 5G trials being conducted with them.
Intel is a proponent of open radio access network (O-RAN). Can you provide some insights around cost savings in case telcos adopt O-RAN, and does it mean an end to proprietary networks?
While traditional RAN underpinned by purpose-built hardware makes up most deployments today, the RAN infrastructure is quickly evolving to support various new use cases and industry verticals. As a result, operators are quickly starting to embrace the flexibility of a virtualised RAN. For O-RAN, it’s an open ecosystem that is underpinned by general purpose hardware. Intel is focused on supporting operators for whatever deployment path they choose. We believe both traditional RAN and virtualised RAN solutions will be used in 5G deployments.
What will a 5G-enabled India look like and what is Intel’s contribution to the country’s 5G journey?
5G will help accelerate India’s digital transformation in confluence with artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the intelligent edge. 5G will become an essential technology and an integral part of our social and economic fabric, much like water or electricity. Intel is the leading network silicon provider today, and we’re investing to continue leading into the future.
Intel aims to provide an end-to-end solution to telecom operators for 5G roll-out. Can you share some details about your partners.
Ecosystem partnerships are key across core, access and edge, since no one company can do it alone. We partner with many leading communications service providers around the world to help them deliver differentiated solutions for their 5G network build out. We also partner with telecom equipment manufacturers (Ericsson, Nokia, etc), original equipment manufacturers (Dell, HPE, etc), and software vendors (VMware, Red Hat, etc).
Please share some insights around your partnership with Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.
Intel’s collaboration with Reliance Jio involves co-innovations in 5G radio and wireless core. We are also collaborating in other associate areas that include AI, cloud and edge computing, which will help Jio as they deploy 5G. Intel and Bharti Airtel are collaborating to drive network development of 4G and 5G vRAN and O-RAN to transform Airtel’s networks to reap the full possibilities of 5G.
The government is supporting the use of local 5G technology (5Gi) by telecom operators. What promise does the local technology hold when compared with the currently prevalent 3GPP standards for 5G?
3GPP specifications are globally accepted and ratified and countries following such common standards stand to benefit from them. 5Gi tries to help promote the local ecosystem and address India-specific aspects of rural connectivity and coverage in high-density areas. These aspects are partially addressed by 3GPP 5G specifications and additional enhancements can be introduced in future 3GPP releases. We think globally harmonised 3GPP standards for 5G will help in keeping the costs low for the end consumer and better address the issues of security, interoperability, and backward compatibility.
When can 5G services be launched in India as spectrum auctions have not taken place yet?
It is heartening to know that several 5G trials are already on in different parts of the country. The real goal, of course, is widespread 5G deployments and we are eager to see the government make spectrum available so that consumers and businesses can enjoy the benefits of the technology.