Airtel prepares for 5G rollout with Nokia and Altiostar deals

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Bharti Airtel, India’s largest integrated telecommunications services provider, and the world’s second largest MNO, has announced that it has deployed Altiostar’s open virtual radio access network (vRAN) solution, 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, and with India expected to reach 920 million unique mobile customers by 2025, which will also include 88 million 5G connections according to the GSMA, this is a massive win for Nokia, which has recently lost out to Ericsson in deals with China Mobile and China Telecom.

The Nokia deal will lay the foundations for 5G connectivity in the future, with approximately 300,000 radio units deployed across several spectrum bands, including 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, 2100 Mhz and 2300 Mhz, and is expected to be completed by 2022.

“Airtel has consistently topped network performance charts in studies conducted by multiple global experts. We are committed to continuously invest in emerging network technologies to provide a best-in-class experience to our customers,” said Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India and South Asia) at Bharti Airtel. “This initiative with Nokia is a major step in this direction. We have been working with Nokia for more than a decade now and are delighted to use Nokia’s SRAN products in further improving the capacity and coverage of our network as we prepare for the 5G era.” 

Altiostar open vRAN partnership

"An Open vRAN is one such solution which is essential for the deployment of next-generation 4G and 5G technologies efficiently as we take mobile broadband to the masses.”

Randeep Sekhon, Bharti Airtel.

Alongside this news, Airtel has also announced the deployment of Altiostar’s open virtual radio access network (vRAN) solution. This will make Airtel the first operator in India to deploy vRAN-based 4G network, using Altiostar’s open vRAN solution across multiple major cities in India. The solution is 5G ready, and will provide a seamless evolution to 5G using the same architecture. 

“As a customer obsessed brand, we at Airtel are consistently strengthening our network architecture with innovative technology break-through. An Open vRAN is one such solution which is essential for the deployment of next-generation 4G and 5G technologies efficiently as we take mobile broadband to the masses.” said Randeep Sekhon, CTO - Bharti Airtel. “We look forward to closely working with Altiostar for our vRAN deployment which is a significant aspect of our network strategy.”

The RAN constitutes the bulk of the capital and operating costs for mobile network operators. By partnering with Altiostar’s Open vRAN software, Bharti Airtel can improve innovation and cost efficiency  in its radio networks. And with cloud-based open vRAN technologies being the cornerstone for network slicing, Bharti Airtel is also setting the foundation for rolling out 5G services, applications and multiple 5G use cases

“Altiostar is a leader in open virtualized radio access solutions. This collaboration  with Bharti Airtel is exciting because the size and breadth of its network will demonstrate the innovation and the disruption that open vRAN solutions are bringing to the industry,” said Ashraf Dahod, President and CEO, Altiostar. “India is a mobile-first market that leads the world in mobile data and video consumption and by deploying Altiostar open vRAN solution, Bharti Airtel can evolve its network to maintain its leadership and continue its mission to provide customers with exceptional experiences.” 

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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.