Vodafone Idea in talks with vendors for sourcing 5G gear

has initiated talks with a slew of local and international telecom vendors and system integrators to explore gear sourcing options for its 5G network, a top official said.

The aim is to negate potential cost implications that sourcing from traditional European vendors Nokia and Ericsson may have in the absence of competition.

“We are talking to a few local vendors and some international players. We want to explore options for our network to avoid any duopoly of Nokia and Ericsson and to see the cost benefits in future,” a senior company executive told ET, on the condition of anonymity.

The person added that there’s uncertainty over the participation of China’s Huawei and ZTE in the country’s 5G network build out and Korea’s Samsung is serving only Jio in the country, which is why it is “pertinent” that Vodafone Idea explore its options. The discussions come at a time when its bigger rivals Rliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have either developed their own 5G stack or have entered strategic partnerships to jointly build the network technology in the country with non-traditional companies.

Vi is also betting on OpenRAN technology for its future 5G networks, having done OpenRAN 4G trials previously. The telco had also commercially deployed OpenRAN-based commercial sites based on US-based Mavenir’s technology in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

“We are closely monitoring the OpenRAN-related developments in other markets and have started talks with some global vendors and system integrators that are focused on this new approach of deploying networks,” the official said. He expects that in three-four years, OpenRAN will be a mature technology. “Right now, we are seeing what cost benefits it could offer to us.”

Another person familiar with Vodafone Idea’s plans said that the telco is currently in the exploratory mode and may float request for proposals (RFPs) going ahead.

Vodafone Idea didn’t respond to ET’s request for comment.

OpenRAN as a concept enables hardware and software to be dis-aggregated, unlike conventional radio gears, allowing technology products from different suppliers to co-exist with the various software providers, and reduce costs for telcos.

OpenRAN allows more customisation of the network architecture and capabilities creating opportunities for new business lines and improving customer experience, analysts said.


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