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Jio changes strategy, is in dialogue with Nokia and Ericsson for 5G telecom gear

Reliance Jio has started talks with European telecom gear maker Ericsson for buying 5G telecom gear, going beyond its current 4G partner, Samsung.

According to people in the know, Ericsson had tied up with Reliance Jio for initially conducting 5G trials in Delhi but that did not happen.

Then, in a quick move a few weeks ago, Jio sought fresh permission from the government to shift the location of trials to Mumbai and this was granted. The sources added that quick trials with Ericsson are set to begin because the deadline for the permission ends on 26 July, the day the 5G auction starts.

The two companies had also looked at undertaking quick trials in Jamnagar, too, but permission is still awaited.

Reliance Jio has already conducted trials of its own 5G equipment and technology in Mumbai and Jamnagar and also with Samsung in Mumbai. It is also believed to have started talks with Nokia too, though no trial runs have been envisaged.

The move by Reliance Jio to go for trials just a few weeks before the auction reflects, for many observers, a change in its earlier strategy while deploying 4G services some years ago when it signed up primarily with Samsung to build the entire network. Many had expected it to follow suit for 5G too.

An Ericsson spokesperson said it would not comment on 5G negotiations.

Nokia India and Reliance Jio also declined to comment on the issue.

Nokia executives had earlier said that there was no need for 5G trials as their products were already deployed in numerous 5G networks across the globe.

It is not clear, however, what Reliance Jio’s final strategy will be under the new leadership of Akash Ambani who was appointed as Jio chairman on Tuesday. Will Ericsson or Nokia or both supplement Jio’s requirements, apart from Samsung? Or will it once again go for one key telecom gear manufacturer?

What makes the decision more interesting is that Reliance Jio has also developed its own technology in-house which includes the key 5G core as well as the radios and other software solutions. It wants to integrate this technology with that provided by its global vendors.

Unlike other telcos, Reliance Jio is also planning to launch the more advanced standalone 5G network which is key for low latency services. In this, both the core as well as the radios are powered by 5G.

But its competitors will launch only non-standalone 5G, using the existing 4G core of the network.

Analysts say that the chip shortage has also impacted telecom gear manufacturing at a time when there is huge demand across the world to roll out 5G networks.

There are already over 213 5G networks in over 55 countries and there are many more which are ready to roll it out.

The shortage has been aggravated by the fact that in many countries, Chinese giants like Huawei and ZTE have been disallowed. In India, this is creating more pressure on existing telecom gear makers.

To fill the gap, telcos like Reliance Jio and Airtel are developing their own open RAN technology, either in-house or through collaborations, to fill the vacuum created by the absence of the Chinese. Business Standard

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