Airtel picks IBM, Red Hat to build 5G-ready cloud networkBharti Airtel has selected IBM and Red Hat to build its new 5G-ready telco network cloud to support core operations, monetise the telco’s pan-India 4G network with the help of new services and be more competitive against main rival Reliance Jio Infocomm.

Both IBM and RedHat will help Airtel build its next-generation core network, analytical tools and new consumer and enterprise services on top of this cloud platform based on open standards, the companies said in a joint statement Monday.

“Our goal with this powerful, seamless horizontal approach is to make our network future ready and enable Airtel to efficiently serve the massive surge in data consumption,” Randeep Sekhon, chief technology officer at Bharti Airtel, said in the statement.

IBM and RedHat already have a similar partnership with Vodafone Idea. The companies have enabled Vodafone Idea’s IT and network applications to run on a common cloud architecture.

“The creation of this cloud will help Airtel create new services and capabilities and will also enable it to monetise their 4G much faster besides preparing for 5G,” Sandip Patel, General Manager- IBM India/South Asia told ET. “A lot of this will also help Airtel to be more competitive with reduced capex and opex.

The companies did not share any financial details.

Patel said that the pandemic has propelled the need for telcos to rethink their networks in India even as the world goes digital. “This deal will help Airtel to transform itself into a digital service provider from a communications service provider.”

With the new network cloud, Airtel expects to deliver a better customer experience through enhanced network performance, improved availability, operations automation and scaling the network to the edge. This will help reduce latency and improve bandwidth availability and automation, thereby strengthening the overall quality of the network.

The tie ups will also help the telco improve its time-to-market of services, reduction in operating and capital expenses.

Sanchit Vir Gogia, Founder and CEO, Greyhound Research said that the new deal with is a testimony by Bharti Airtel’s to its network, its partner-led model and most of all its focus on delivering superior customer experience.

“For all three telcos, the battle has shifted to consumer data, apps and enterprise services where there is a lot more money to be made compared to traditional voice Services. But in this new turf, the winner is decided on a key metric – the one that delivers better customer experience which further depends on parameters like network availability, overall performance and 5G readiness,” Gogia said.

“Value of both Airtel and Vodafone Idea cloud deals will be around $100 million,” Gogia said.

Adopting a modern hybrid cloud architecture enables communication service providers (CSPs) to deliver more responsive networks that tap into automation and AI to address growing customer needs and deploy new services at the right location and network tier.

Airtel will also tap into Red Hat’s ecosystem of network OEMs. In the future, Airtel’s open hybrid cloud platform is expected to help enable new revenue streams with the on-boarding of third-party services including gaming, remote media production and enterprise services.

“These new components will be more relevant in the current COVID era as digital connectivity assumes greater role,” Patel said.





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