Airtel, Mavenir claim first O-RAN-based 5G NSA validation in India

Bharti Airtel

Indian operator Bharti Airtel has conducted what is said to be India’s first Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) based live 5G network validation in partnership with Mavenir.

The Mavenir Open Virtualized Radio Access Network (Open vRAN) solution is based on commercial off-the-shelf hardware, and 3500MHz Radio employing open interfaces as defined by O-RAN Alliance.

The O-RAN-based 5G validation has been conducted in Chandigarh and Mohali, using the 3,500 MHz band test spectrum allotted to Airtel by the Department of Telecom (DoT). Speeds of over 1 Gbps were validated with the equipment deployed and configured in Non-Standalone (NSA) mode and using commercially available 5G mobile devices.

Randeep Sekhon, CTO, at Bharti Airtel said, “This is a major milestone for the Open RAN ecosystem in India, and yet another validation of the growing readiness of 5G networks based on open architecture. Airtel is delighted to spearhead the innovation efforts of O-RAN Alliance in India. We look forward to deepening our technology partnership with Mavenir and collaborate to accelerate the deployment of these radio access networks.”

BG Kumar, President Communication Services, at Mavenir, said, “We are excited to partner with Airtel on 5G Open RAN journey. This partnership with Airtel has given impetus to Open RAN ecosystem towards faster deployment of Open RAN. Mavenir is committed to the India market with its continued investments towards development of cutting-edge technologies at R&D centers across India.”

Airtel was the first operator in India to commercially deploy an open virtual RAN solution based on disaggregated and open architecture defined by the O-RAN Alliance.

Last month, Bharti Airtel said it expects to deploy its 5G network using equipment from European vendors as well as Open RAN equipment.

“As per the national policies, we are not buying from Chinese vendors for the radio or any core equipment. The other two [Nokia and Ericsson] are very much there in our networks and we’re talking to everyone who can sell to India and follows India’s policies. We will be able to work not just with traditional vendors, but with O-RAN vendors as well. We are already in trial in Punjab with US-based Mavenir where we’re able to see 1 Gbps-plus speeds. So, necessarily, there will be a mix of vendors,” the company’s CTO Randeep Sekhon reportedly said.

Sekhon also said that Airtel may look at acquiring 100 megahertz of 5G spectrum in the spectrum auction the Indian government will carry out this year, adding that the company was open to buy a lower amount of spectrum if base prices remain high.

The executive said that Airtel will be technically ready to launch its 5G network two or three months after the local regulator awards 5G frequencies.