With India looking to keep Huawei and ZTE out following hostilities on the border with China, dependence on other overseas suppliers would have increased costs, analysts said.
“This Made-in-India 5G solution will be ready for trials as soon as 5G spectrum is available and can be ready for field deployment next year,” RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani said in a speech at the company’s annual general meeting.
ET was the first to report on Jio’s 5G technology plans on March 10.
Acquisitions Helped Jio
“Because of Jio’s converged, all-IP network architecture, we can easily upgrade our 4G network to 5G. Once Jio’s 5G solution is proven at India-scale, Jio Platforms would be well positioned to be an exporter of 5G solutions to other telecom operators globally, as a complete managed service,” said Ambani.
India’s 5G trials and spectrum auctions have been delayed, pending clarity on Huawei’s participation.
Ambani said Jio Platforms had been conceived with the vision of developing an original, captive intellectual property using which “we can demonstrate the transformative power of technology across multiple industry ecosystems…first in India…and then confidently offering these Made-in-India solutions to the rest of the world.”
The development comes as Huawei and ZTE may get frozen out of other countries owing to heightened suspicions over the links between the Chinese vendors and their government. The US has long been campaigning to exclude Huawei while the UK recently banned the purchase of Huawei 5G equipment and said any such gear that’s installed needs to be removed by 2027.
Analysts said that Jio’s move to develop its own 5G technology is aimed at reducing dependence on foreign vendors and cost-related advantages. This also comes at a time when India is seen to be lagging behind China and others in terms of technology such as 5G. Jio is currently working with South Korea’s Samsung for its pan-India 4G LTE and IoT (internet of things) networks. It also works with players like Nokia for its wireline network in the country.
“Technologies like OpenRAN and Cloud are threatening the monopoly of traditional players like Nokia, Ericsson, and Huawei. Jio is leveraging these technologies to develop its own 5G solutions and is well set to take advantage of its acquisitions of Rancore Technologies and Radisys. These companies are playing a crucial role here in Jio’s 5G journey,” said Rohan Dhamija, partner, South Asia, Analysys Mason.
Jio has the financial resources to make such a dramatic move, said Mahesh Uppal, director at telecom consultancy firm ComFirst. However, it is a new player in the competitive space. “It is ambitious of Jio to focus on 5G technology, where we can expect a lot of action in the coming years. If successful, Jio would be a major achievement for India’s telecom sector. Only time will tell if it can succeed,” he said.
“It is not very clear if it is an infrastructure play or just the integration play. If it is infrastructure play, then you will be competing with traditional vendors. That’s a very different play because no telco has done that so far,” said Sanjay Kapoor, former Airtel CEO. “OpenRAN and Cloud haven’t gained acceptance in the global market and are still at the development stage.”
The acquisitions of Rancore and Radisys accelerated Jio’s in-house development capabilities around open-source technologies and network function virtualisation (NFV) adoption, paving way for the development for IoT platforms and applications, analysts said.
Having developed end-to-end 5G technology, Jio said it now wants to bring a wide array of use cases such as security and surveillance using drones, industrial IoT and digitisation in the agriculture sector.
The US, the UK, China, Australia, South Korea, Japan and a number of European countries have already launched 5G services. India, on the other hand, has delayed a planned 5G spectrum auction until 2021 due to the unavailability of use cases and lack of interest from private telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea that have also said that the base price — Rs 492 crore a unit — was too high and wouldn’t attract bids.
Jio had previously informed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and sought its approval to conduct 5G trials based on its own technology. It had earlier given a separate presentation to the DoT to explain its technology and possible use cases. But these trials are also yet to be held, pending clarity on Huawei.
Jio had also submitted separate applications for 5G field trials, with all other telecom gear vendors, including Samsung, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE. Vodafone Idea and Airtel too had submitted their proposals jointly with Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei.