Intel and Bharti Airtel have announced a collaboration to drive network development of 4G and 5G virtualized radio access network (vRAN) and open radio access network (RAN) technology. The partnership aims to evolve Airtel’s communications networks from fixed-function equipment to virtualized cloud-native deployments and enable edge-to-cloud communications to power our hyperconnected world. It is part of Airtel’s 5G roadmap for India.

Airtel’s network will be powered by a collection of Intel technology: the latest Xeon Scalable processors, FPGAs and ASICs, Ethernet 800 Series, and FlexRAN reference architecture. It will help the service provider transform its network to meet the growing needs of its 345 million-plus subscribers with flexible, software-defined infrastructure and respond to their varying requirements for bandwidth and latency. It will help Airtel offer new services to consumers while programming its network to yield long-term cost optimizations.

Bharti Airtel and other telecom operators are at present conducting 5G trials in select cities across India.

As members of the O-RAN Alliance, both companies will work closely to develop a range of ‘Make in India’ 5G solutions and enable “world-class” telecom infrastructure in India through local partners, said Intel in a statement. Open radio access network (O-RAN) platforms will leverage Intel’s reference architecture with both software and hardware components for telecom networks and enable software-based radio base stations that can run on general-purpose servers connected to the network.

“Being able to digitally power the vibrant population of India’s connected users requires scalable and agile networks that can evolve to address the growing demands of its users. Airtel is delivering their next-generation enhanced network with a breadth of Intel technology, including Intel Xeon Scalable processors and FlexRAN software to optimize RAN workloads with embedded intelligence, to scale their infrastructure…,” said Dan Rodriguez, Intel corporate vice president, Network Platforms Group.

“Airtel is delighted to have Intel as a part of its rapidly expanding partner ecosystem for 5G,” said Randeep Sekhon, Bharti Airtel CTO.

Led by affordable smartphones and the lowest data tariffs globally, India has the world’s second-largest internet population at over 620 million. The country’s active internet user base is expected to grow to 900 million by 2025. The advent of 5G will further deepen the digital adoption through a range of industrial and customer use cases.

Intel has also partnered with Airtel’s competitor Reliance Jio to work on 5G technology.

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