October 17, 2022
Nokia and Ericsson will share the spoils of Reliance Jio’s nationwide 5G deployment.
Reliance Industries (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani is a firm backer of the Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ policy, and he is well on his way to creating an end-to-end 5G solutions provider in Jio Platforms. However, it seems the product portfolio is not quite ready for the big leagues, because his mobile arm Jio has gone with two big foreign players.
Nokia on Monday announced that it will supply base stations, massive MIMO antennas, remote radio heads (RRHs), and self-organising network software for Jio’s nationwide standalone (SA) 5G network. Separately, Ericsson also announced on Monday that it too will provide RAN products as well as mobile backhaul solutions for Jio’s new network.
“We are delighted to partner with Ericsson for Jio’s 5G SA rollout. Jio transformed the digital landscape in India with the launch of LTE services in 2016. We are confident that Jio’s 5G network will accelerate India’s digitalisation and will serve as the foundation for achieving our nation’s ‘Digital India’ vision,” said Akash Ambani, Mukesh’s eldest son and chairman of Reliance Jio.
He was similarly effusive about Nokia, expressing confidence that the partnership “will deliver one of the most advanced 5G networks globally.”
As revealed in August, Jio plans to spend $25 billion on rolling out nationwide 5G by the end of next year. A deployment this big and bold requires suppliers that can match Jio’s scale and ambition, so it makes sense that it would partner with the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.
As well as heading to foreign climes for network equipment, Jio is also allegedly talking to overseas lenders about funding it. The Economic Times reported on Monday that Jio has reached out to BNP Paribas, HSBC, and MUFG Bank with regard to borrowing up to $1.5 billion. This is in addition to a $2.5 billion loan that Jio is also in the process of negotiating with unnamed overseas lenders. One of the unnamed sources cited in the report said Jio hopes to raise the money by mid-November.
As for where that leaves Platforms, while it can be predicted with a high degree of certainty that its products will feature in Jio’s 5G network somewhere down the line, it was never really in the running for this aspect of the deployment.
Platforms’ own Website shows that it doesn’t have anything macro-scale when it comes to the radio side of things. It offers both indoor and outdoor small cells, a distributed unit and a massive MIMO radio unit, but not big, mast-mounted antennas for delivering broad coverage. It ticks off pretty much everything else though, from 4G/5G core network solutions and cloud-native OSS and BSS, to cloud, automation and AI/ML platforms.
Operationally speaking, Jio Platforms is also in the early stages of taking its products to market, and in all likelihood lacks the experience and manufacturing footprint to deliver on a scale that Jio demands. It was alleged in a report earlier this month that Jio is holding talks with overseas operators about supplying one or more of them with its kit, which could provide Platforms with some much-needed real-world experience.
It’s certainly one to watch.
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