Airtel announces new network cloud for 5G and beyond

(Image credit: Future)

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest integrated telecommunications services provider, and the world’s second largest MNO, has announced that IBM and Red Hat will build its new telco network cloud.

With the current roll-out of 5G equipment around the world, a telco cloud enables  vendors to implement network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined data center (SDDC) management. NFV will enable Airtel to virtualize network services, such as routers, firewalls, and load balancers, that have traditionally been run on proprietary hardware. These services are packaged as virtual machines (VMs) on commodity hardware, which allows service providers to run their network on standard servers instead of proprietary ones. 

Getting future-ready

"This is designed to reduce latency and improve bandwidth availability and automation, thereby strengthening the overall quality of the network."


Airtel’s network cloud is designed to make it more efficient, flexible and future-ready to support core operations and enable new digital services. And under the new agreement with IBM and Red Hat, Airtel will build its next generation core network, analytical tools and new consumer and enterprise services on top of this cloud platform based on open standards.

“With the new network cloud, Airtel intends to deliver a better customer experience through enhanced network performance, improved availability, operations automation and scaling the network to the edge,” read an Airtel statement. “This is designed to reduce latency and improve bandwidth availability and automation, thereby strengthening the overall quality of the network.”

The announcement comes days after India’s largest telecoms company revealed that it would be using Altiostar’s open virtual radio access network (vRAN) solution for 5G delivery, whilst also announcing a multi-year agreement to deploy Nokia’s SRAN solution across nine ‘circles’ in India (telcom regulators in India have divided a telecom map of the country into 22 circles).

With India expected to reach 920 million unique mobile customers by 2025 – including 88 million 5G connections, according to the GSMA – the country’s data consumption is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 70% by 2022. And by adopting a modern hybrid cloud architecture, communication service providers (CSPs) can deliver more responsive networks that tap into automation and AI.

Using IBM and Red Hat's portfolio of hybrid cloud and cognitive enterprise capabilities, Airtel plans to adopt an open cloud architecture that uses Red Hat OpenStack Platform for all network workloads and Red Hat OpenShift for newer containerized workloads. It will also tap into Red Hat's ecosystem of network OEMs. 

In the future, Airtel's open hybrid cloud platform is expected to help enable new revenue streams with the on-boarding of third-party services including gaming, remote media production and enterprise services.

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(Image credit: Future)
Dan Oliver

Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.