On 21 July 2021, Bharti Airtel announced its collaboration with Intel to accelerate India’s 5G network rollout. They plan to leverage vRAN (virtualised Radio Access Network) and O-RAN (Open Radio Access Network) to transform Airtel’s network and provide their customers with the benefits of next-gen technologies.
As members of the O-RAN Alliance, Airtel and Intel will collaborate to develop 5G solutions under Make in India and provide world-class telecom infrastructure in India. Intel’s experience and latest technologies will contribute to the development of 5G technologies.
With their joint effort, India’s communication network will evolve from fixed-function equipment to virtualised cloud-native deployments.
Now let’s take a deeper dive into the Airtel-Intel collaboration.
Airtel will deploy Intel’s latest eASICs, FPGAs, Ethernet 800 series, and 3rd gen Xeon® Scalable processors across its whole network as part of the joint project.
These will build a solid foundation to roll out wide-scale 5G networks, allowing mobile edge computing and network slicing.
According to many experts, O-RAN platforms are going to be an area of tremendous innovation and creativity.
Open Radio Access Network is a concept based on interoperability and standardisation of RAN elements. It uses a unified connection standard for white-box hardware and open-source software from different vendors. O-RAN also allows baseband and radio unit components from diverse suppliers to operate seamlessly.
These O-RAN platforms used by Airtel will leverage the Intel FlexRAN reference architecture, an off-the-shelf general-purpose x86 server system. These virtualised platforms, containing Intel processors, I/O, and FPGAs, enable software-based radio stations located at the network edge to work at the highest flexibility.
The Intel-Airtel collaboration will provide the foundation of a large-scale enhanced mobile broadband network in India with mobile edge computing. The industry leaders plan to develop India into a global 5G hub with indigenous 5G solutions from local partners.
This will allow edge-to-edge communications and power a hyper-connected world. Things like industry 4.0, cloud gaming, and virtual/augmented reality will become a daily experience.
Moreover, a large-scale, enhanced network mobile broadband network will let Airtel offer new and latest customer services while allowing them to optimise long-term cost savings. India already has the second-largest internet population, and the 5G network plans will deepen digital adoption through the increase in industrial and customer use.
Intel’s collaboration will make it easy for Airtel to go forward with its 5G roadmap in India. Intel will provide their latest 3rd Gen Xeon processors, vRAN/O-RAN platforms, FlexRAN software and work with local manufacturers. This will grow India’s active internet user base and boost the digitalisation of our country.
A widespread 5G adoption will bring many useful functionalities, including virtual/augmented reality, cloud gaming and ultra-high-speed broadband. Airtel has already been the first telecom provider to conduct 5G trials in major cities and demonstrate 5G on live networks. The project has enough ambition and resources to back it up to address the growing demands of India’s connected users.
With a little help with technologies from Intel, Airtel is on its way to deliver the widely popular next-gen technology and make a scalable and agile network.
5G is the new global wireless standard after 4G networks, meant to provide a higher multi-GBPS data speed. In addition, it will involve ultra-low latency, a more consistent user experience, and massive network capacity that haven’t been seen before.
vRAN is used to upgrade previous hardware functions by making them software-based (virtualised). This technology moves the controller function of today’s 4G hardware base stations to centralised servers.
ORAN technologies are based on the concepts of interoperability and standardisation of RAN elements. It integrates modular base station software and off-the-shelf hardware elements from different vendors and makes them operate synergistically.
A growing number of devices are available from brands like Apple, Samsung, OnePlus etc., that support various 5G technologies. Depending on the phones, they will connect to low, mid, and high-band 5G spectrum networks.
5G is designed to provide peak data rates of up to 20GBPS speed based on IMT-2020 requirements. Additionally, it will provide more network capacity to prevent the data speed from dropping considerably and have low latency.
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