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The US and India presented their joint Open RAN roadmap this week in what appears to be yet another attempt to push forward the deployment of Open RAN kit in India.
January 19, 2024
India's Ministry of Communications shared the highlights of telecoms secretary Neeraj Mittal's visit to India, including the fact that a meeting with White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Tech Anne Neuberger led to the formalisation and release of the US-India OpenRAN Acceleration Roadmap.
"This milestone agreement promotes collaboration for interoperability and scaled deployments of OpenRAN products," the ministry said, in a statement. "Both sides concurred on joint efforts in Next Generation Communication Technologies, marking a significant stride towards global technological advancement."
With the ministry not sharing any further information, it's difficult to say what that actually means in reality. We don't know what the content of the roadmap looks like. And commentary out of the US wasn't any more helpful.
"Yesterday, the U.S. & India took a critical step in accelerating the development and deployment of secure telecom networks, within iCET. We finalized the U.S.-India Industry Task Force's Open RAN Acceleration Roadmap, to drive innovation and competition in the telecom industry," said White House National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson, on Twitter. ICET, or the US-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology, was set up by President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held its inaugural meeting a year ago.
This is not the first time India and the US have committed to working together to drive Open RAN.
In June last year the two nations launched two joint task forces, one focused on Open RAN and the other on 6G R&D, and said they would partner on Open RAN field trials and rollout in both countries. Incidentally, that particular White House announcement also welcomed the participation of Indian companies in the US Rip and Replace programme, designed to eradicate Chinese gear from mobile networks, but the less said about the progress of that scheme the better.
Then in September there came another joint announcement on Open RAN, this time to mark the signing of an MoU by the Bharat 6G Alliance and the Next G Alliance related to the aforementioned Open RAN task forces and geared towards boosting public-private cooperation between vendors and operators.
"A 5G Open RAN pilot in a leading Indian telecom operator will be undertaken by a US Open RAN manufacturer before field deployment," they said.
The Economic Times notes that Mavenir is working with Bharti Airtel on the rollout of Open RAN 4G and 5G sites in rural areas and it recently quoted the US software company as saying that the technology picked up steam in India in 2023 and should ramp-up quickly this year.
But the fact remains that Open RAN has not yet gained any serious traction in one of the world's largest telecoms markets, in terms of customer numbers. And this string of nebulous cooperation agreements between governments will do little to change that if the operators are not on board.
Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.
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