OpenRAN's Role in Bridging the Digital Divide

India’s strides in marching towards a more connected future have been nothing short of spectacular. The gap between the country’s urban and rural infrastructure grows smaller with every step, from leveraging existing resources to co-opting nascent technologies. An emerging contender, 5G-driven OpenRAN is India’s silver bullet in bridging the digital divide. 5G has turned the tides of the country’s structure–it has accelerated growth, aided development, and transformed India into a fully-fledged technological hub.


Every sector has the potential to birth new services and unlock exciting avenues with 5G. Innovation is verging on a digitally integrated future, and OpenRAN is the fuel driving it. This technology will allow network providers to meet the growing demand for digital connectivity by establishing a uniform architecture supporting radio access channels that enable a flexible interface more efficiently and cost-effectively, especially in inaccessible or remote areas. 


Open Radio Access Network (RAN) is the ammunition telecommunication providers need to reduce expenditure while developing advanced internet solutions.


OpenRAN: Tethering Remote Infrastructure with RIC


Over 25,000 Indian villages lack internet and mobile connectivity; OpenRAN is the solution to eliminating this gap. Open RAN operates on the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) software that handles 5G abilities, such as expanding communication and network slicing. The cloud-based software uses its digital status to assist telecom operators in designing new tools for optimising networks and connecting with various vendors in a rural or remote OpenRAN setting. Another way in which OpenRAI fixes the problem of limited infrastructure is by being low-maintenance. Access to financial institutions is a limitation in rural areas. However, India’s digital revolution resolves this challenge through digital banking applications and digital connectivity services like OpenRAN. The flexibility of OpenRAN networks makes deploying new 5G services to remote locations more efficient. OpenRAN’s virtual and built-in feature to regularly update network capacity remotely makes it an excellent tool in uplifting rural areas and geographically limited regions.


Airtel and Meta - As members of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Open RAN project group, Meta and Airtel joined hands to drive India’s digital innovation, diversity, and inclusion. Airtel will use advanced analytical and AL/ML systems to increase the operational connectivity of OpenRAN management in select Indian areas. The telecom provider also conducted 5G OpenRAN trials in Haryana and will expand the technology to more remote and rural coverage.


Vodafone Idea’s OpenRAN Solution -Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) deployed Mavenir’s OpenRAN solutions on several cell sites to drive commercial traffic. This telecom service provider also aims to utilise OpenRAN to establish 5G connectivity across the country to promote digital uniformity.


Reliance Jio - As India’s leading operator, Reliance Jio has extended 700 MHz, 3.6 GHz, and 26 GHz 5G services across 34 cities in ten states. The company also partnered with Ericsson and Nokia to deploy a nationwide Radio Access Network.


India: Championing the OpenRAN Movement


Airtel and Ericsson - India has been a trailblazer in taking digital connectivity to staggering heights. Airtel and Ericsson successfully transformed the future of remote digitalisation by deploying India’s first rural 5G trial on 3GPP-compliant 5G technology. The two telecom providers brought 3GPP-compliant Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and 5G technology to rural areas. Using 3.5Ghz mid-band test 5G bandwidth, Airtel and Ericsson generated over 200Mbps throughput at a distance exceeding 10 km from the test location.


OpenRAN: Digital Integration and Inclusivity


OpenRAN is a multi-tiered solution to bridging the digital divide. Though still developing, this technology has already displayed immense prospects in empowering areas with remote or limited infrastructure by considering CAPEX and OPEX cost limitations and flexibility. Instead of the gap created by rigid conventional Radio Access Networks, OpenRAN brings respite and innovation to the forefront.