5G network rollout: Nokia and Ericsson snag Jio’s $3 billion deals

Reliance Jio, the country’s largest telecom operator, on Monday inked long-term deals with global equipment makers Ericsson and Nokia to build its standalone 5G network.

Although the value of the contracts was not disclosed by the companies, industry estimates put the total value at approximately $3 billion, split equally between the two vendors.

In August, Bharti Airtel awarded similar contracts to Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung for the rollout of its 5G network. The value is estimated similarly.

In the future, Jio is likely to place another order with South Korean conglomerate Samsung, which built its 4G network.

The developments clearly show that Chinese providers like Huawei will not be part of the country’s 5G network.

Under the terms of the agreement, Ericsson will use its energy-efficient 5G wireless access network products and solutions to roll out Jio’s 5G network, while Nokia will provide devices such as base stations, high-performance 5G Massive Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas, and remote Radio Heads to support different spectral bands and network software.

Ericsson and Nokia would be paid upon reaching certain milestones set by the telecom provider. The contract structure includes construction, operation and maintenance of the network.

Jio’s core network is already up and running and is being built by the company itself. Once these radios are installed on the towers, 5G coverage will be improved.

Jio has already started beta testing its 5G services in four cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Varanasi. It has said its 5G services will be available across India by December 2023 at a total cost of $2 trillion.

“Jio transformed the digital landscape in India with the launch of LTE (4G) services in 2016. We are confident that Jio’s 5G network will accelerate India’s digitalization and serve as the foundation for realizing our country’s vision of ‘Digital India’,” said Akash Ambani , Chairman of Reliance Jio.

Unlike its competitors Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, Jio deploys its 5G network on a standalone architecture, which it calls a “true 5G” solution. In a 5G standalone architecture, the deployed network is independent of the 4G network. According to experts, the standalone architecture does not currently have a developed ecosystem, but every telecom company would eventually have to migrate to this architecture in order to unleash the diverse use cases of 5G and provide users with an optimal experience of the new technology.

According to Jio, deploying a standalone 5G network represents a major technology leap as it modernizes network infrastructure to provide consumers and businesses with a transformative 5G experience with enhanced capabilities.

For Ericsson and Nokia, India is one of the top markets in terms of business opportunities.

“India is building a world-class digital infrastructure that will drive innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship across the country. We are excited to partner with Jio on these ambitions through Ericsson’s standalone 5G connectivity, which will be a key catalyst in achieving these digital transformation goals in society, business and industry,” said Borje Ekholm, President and Ericsson’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said.

“This (deal with Jio) is a significant win for Nokia in an important market and a new customer with one of the largest RAN (Radio Access Network) footprints in the world. This ambitious project will introduce millions of people across India to world-class 5G services enabled by our industry-leading AirScale portfolio. We are proud that Reliance Jio has placed their trust in our technology and we look forward to a long and productive partnership with them,” said Pekka Lundmark, Nokia President and CEO.

Currently, only limited users can enjoy 5G services as cellphone manufacturers have yet to release the necessary software updates on the 5G-enabled devices. At the same time, telecom operators are working to extend 5G network coverage to cities. FE

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