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Bharti Airtel has partnered with the US-based Mavenir for open radio access network (Open RAN)-based fifth generation or 5G field trials in the mmWave and mid band at Chandigarh tri-city, reaffirming its commitment to open technology approach.

"Airtel will undertake 5G trials with Mavenir in Chandigarh tri-city in coming weeks in the 3500 MHz and millimeter wave (mmWave) bands," an industry source said, adding that the partnership would further allow the telco to test a vendor-neutral ecosystem.

The alliance between the two includes deployment of captive 5G standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) modes for both core and radio networks in Chandigarh's urban and rural areas.

Sunil Mittal-driven telco is one of the initial members of O-RAN Alliance since 2018, together with AT&T, Orange, Vodafone Group, China Mobile and Deutsche Telekom, and is spearheading the innovation-driven open architecture. Rival Reliance Jio, an ardent advocate of open technology, is also a member of the Germany-based group.

Query to Bharti Airtel did not elicit any response.

Lately, open architecture-based approach is taking traction in India with incumbents such as Reliance Jio entering into partnerships with NXP and Qualcomm, while Vodafone group, which operates in India with Aditya Birla group's Idea Cellular as Vodafone Idea or Vi, has already teamed up with Korean Samsung and Japanese NEC.

In August this year, Bharti Airtel's chief executive Gopal Vittal said that the telco continues to lead the Open RAN initiative in India by partnering with the "best companies" such as Mavenir, Red Hat, Intel and Qualcomm. It has also entered into strategic partnership with Tata group to deploy locally-developed open network.

In 2020, Airtel deployed Rakuten-owned Altiostar’s open virtual radio access network (vRAN) while rival Jio in August last year said that it had developed and tested an indiginous disaggregated 5G OpenRAN solution, achieving 1 Gigabit per second milestone.

Telecom carriers shifting to non-proprietary networks on the back of an estimated total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of upto 35%, would, however, play spoilsport to the dominance of players such as Swedish Ericsson and Finnish Nokia, according to analysts.

Open RAN uses off-the-shelf software and hardware components, and brings in more savings in capital investments (capex) and operating expenditures (opex) since it allows deployment of virtualised functions with a dynamic capacity and demand alignment.

In May this year, the telcom department's (DoT) Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) wing allocated airwaves to Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea in the 700 Mhz, 3500 Mhz and 26 Ghz bands for a period of six months for next generation network trials.

Meanwhile, the department has recently allowed a six-month extension to service operators to conduct 5G field trials till May 2022 in order to develop locally-relevant 5G use cases.