Why Tata group’s entry into 5G solutions space is a big deal

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on June 21, 2021

Tata group has plans to take its 5G solutions to the global market after trials with Airtel are completed   -  iStockphoto

Open radio access network presents huge opportunities, say experts

Tata Group may form an alliance with a clutch of Indian start-ups including Pune-based Saankhya Labs to offer 5G network solutions using the open radio access network.

According to industry sources, Tata group has plans to take its 5G solutions to the global market after the trials with Airtel are completed. While Tata Consultancy Services will bring the software stack required for the solution, Tatas will rely on Indian start-ups to plug in other components that go into making a 5G network.

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio is also building home-grown 5G network solution based on an open source telecom platform called Open RAN.

Open network platform, similar to how open source software became a game changer in the 1990s, attempts to build telecom radio and base stations using non-proprietary technology. It will help bring down costs drastically compared to buying proprietary gear from the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.

RAN equipment

About 70 per cent of the cost to build telecom networks comes from buying Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, including base stations, radio antennae, receivers. Until now, this was based on proprietary software and hardware supplied as an end-to-end solution by the likes of Nokia, Ericsson, and Huawei. Open RAN (O-Ran) attempts to make core network equipment vendor-neutral with disaggregation of hardware and software functions built on general purpose processors. This avoids vendor lock-in and minimises payment of royalty towards Standard Essential Patents.

“This is a huge opportunity for Indian companies to latch on to. For the past many decades, Indian companies have been trying to break into the telecom equipment market but have not been able to compete with the likes of Nokia, Ericsson and the Chinese players. Open RAN is an opportunity that can change things around,” said an industry expert.

There are multiple Indian players that are already looking at developing 5G solutions to grab the opportunity but the entry of Tata group, along with Reliance, could boost the entire ecosystem. “Until now there were doubts whether Indian players will be able to come up with a viable 5G network solution. But with Tatas entering this space one can expect to finally see a made-in-India telecom network brand,” said a telecom executive.

Published on June 21, 2021

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