Intel, a key player in the 5G ecosystem, has partnered with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio as the country prepares to launch commercial services. Prakash Mallya, Group Vice President and General Manager of Sales, Marketing and Communications, Intel India, spoke to Kiran Rathee from FE about the various opportunities around 5G and how Intel can play a role in the transformation from the country. Edited excerpts:
As Intel plans to become a big player in the 5G ecosystem in India, why isn’t the company currently participating in 5G trials in the country?
Most carriers nationwide are leveraging Intel technology in their infrastructure platform as part of 5G trials with them.
Intel is a supporter of the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN). Can you provide information on the cost savings in case telecom operators adopt O-RAN, and does this mean the end of proprietary networks?
While traditional RAN backed by specially designed hardware constitutes most deployments today, RAN infrastructure is rapidly evolving to support various new use cases and industry verticals. As a result, operators are quickly starting to embrace the flexibility of virtualized RAN. For O-RAN, this is an open ecosystem that relies on general purpose hardware. Intel is focused on supporting operators no matter which deployment path they choose. We believe that traditional RAN and virtualized 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 at the confluence of artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the smart edge. 5G will become an essential technology and an integral part of our social and economic fabric, just like water or electricity. Intel is today the leading supplier of network silicon and we are investing to continue to be at the forefront of the future.
Intel aims to provide an end-to-end solution to telecom operators for the deployment of 5G. Can you share some details about your partners.
Ecosystem partnerships are essential at the heart, at the gate, and at the edge, because no business can do it alone. We partner with many of the world’s leading communications service providers to help them deliver differentiated solutions for building their 5G network. We also work in partnership with telecom equipment manufacturers (Ericsson, Nokia, etc.), original equipment manufacturers (Dell, HPE, etc.) and software publishers (VMware, Red Hat, etc.) ).
Please share some information about 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 related areas, including AI, cloud and edge computing, which will help Jio to deploy 5G. Intel and Bharti Airtel are collaborating to drive the development of 4G and 5G vRAN and O-RAN networks to transform Airtel networks to take full advantage of 5G possibilities.
The government supports the use of local 5G (5Gi) technology by telecom operators. What promise does local technology offer compared to the current 3GPP standards for 5G?
3GPP specifications are globally accepted and ratified and countries that follow such common standards can 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 the 3GPP 5G specifications and further improvements may be introduced in future 3GPP versions. We believe that globally harmonized 3GPP standards for 5G will help keep costs down to the end consumer and better address security, interoperability and backward compatibility issues.
When can 5G services be launched in India as spectrum auctions have yet to take place?
It is heartwarming to know that several 5G trials are already underway in different parts of the country. The real goal, of course, is the widespread rollout of 5G and we look forward to the government making the spectrum available so consumers and businesses can reap the benefits of the technology.