Puneet Sethi, senior vice-president and general manager, RAN Business Unit, Mavenir

Open and automated radio access networks (RANs) have emerged as a promising alternative to legacy architectures in the telecommunication space. In an interview with tele.net, Puneet Sethi, senior vice-president and general manager, RAN Business Unit, Mavenir, shares his views on the open RAN and 5G ecosystem in India, Mavenir’s role in this space, and the key trends and challenges…

What is the status of the open RAN ecosystem in India?

The open RAN ecosystem is developing at a very fast pace. A number of partners and players in the radio, services and centra­lised unit/distributed unit space showcased their products at the India Mobile Cong­ress (IMC) 2022. Moreover, hardware can now be sourced within India.

How close are we to attaining fully automated open RAN networks?

The state of automation is such that we are able to launch several hundred sites in a single day. Right from when we get access to the hardware to the airwaves that come up, the whole process is automated. Whe­ther it is a public cloud such as AWS CodePipieline or a private cloud, software is automatically deployed, checks are made and the signals start radiating from the radio. This is one of the key differentiators of open RAN as it allows you to automate and enables other information technology (IT) players to come in and offer the benefits of automation.

How is Mavenir helping CSPs leverage 5G in India?

5G represents a huge investment for communication service providers (CSPs). They have to pay for the spectrum and invest capex to develop sites and deploy all the equipment. How these CSPs will make the investment bear fruit is the question. The ARPU will not go up as consumers will not pay additional money for 5G services. So, operators have to think about monetising 5G in different ways, which has not been done with 4G, 3G or 2G. They have to think of ways to deploy new use cases or applications. For example, the intelligent video analytics (IVA) use case can be applied to the manu­facturing and automotive sectors. These are the use cases the telecom industry will have to expand into to create new sources of revenue and make the most of 5G. The only way this can happen is if operators deploy the solutions faster and leverage cloud-native applications that can be automated, both in the core and on the RAN. That is where Mavenir has a clear differentiation, given its history on the cloud and open RAN fronts, which can help operators get there faster.

What are the key challenges that network operators are facing as they shift into the next phase of their 5G strategies?

One of the key challenges is that 5G roll-outs will take place at an unprecedented speed. Reliance Jio has committed to pan-Indian 5G availability by the end of 2023 and Bharti Airtel has committed to the same largely by March 2024. A key challenge that we, as an industry, will face is to deliver on these timelines.

How is Mavenir helping MNOs to accelerate revenue generation?

A key challenge of 5G is figuring out how to monetise and generate revenue. Instead of revenues coming from the single mass consumer market that mobile network operators (MNOs) are serving today, we will see a transformation as 5G will go to many small markets. There will be verticals such as manufacturing and automotive with unique 5G needs. Operators will need the flexibility to provide 5G in those specific use cases and allow customers to choose the services, network slices and configurations they need. Mavenir can play a role in delivering cloud-native solutions that allow operators to remain flexible and customise their offerings all the way from packet core to RAN and radios, giving them all the tools to deploy 5G and scale up and down based on the capacity and the users.

How do you see 5G playing a role for telecom operators in the enterprise space?

5G will be much wider in the enterprise spa­ce than any of the previous wireless ge­ne­rations. In 2G, 3G and 4G, there were business-to-business offerings from operators to enterprises, but 5G will have mu­ch deeper interactions in terms of not just providing coverage solutions for enterprise customers but also being a part of th­e­ir operational structure. For example, in manufacturing solutions, we can control ma­nufacturing processes via various features of 5G. Features such as ultra-reliable low latency communications will allow con­trolling the behaviour of a machine at a delay of just a few milliseconds. The same thing applies to IVA in the security industry, a use case showcased by Voda­fone Idea Limited at the IMC inauguration. This is how there is a win-win situation for enterprises to improve their productivity and for operators to create new sources of revenue and make the most of 5G. Further, standalone (SA) 5G will have certain ad­vantages here. CSPs will have to focus on SA 5G as a key architecture and migra­te to it as early as possible to be able to serve enterprises’ needs.

What are the trends Mavenir sees in the larger market as multiple industries invest in te­ch­nologies enabling open, automated mo­bile networks?

We are building our products on open in­ter­faces and leveraging cloud-native technologies. If there is innovation happening in the IT and public cloud industry, it applies to our workload as well. As people start thinking about open vRAN, they will see that there are no barriers to using the innovations that are happening in adjacent industries. That is not possible today in the way networks are deployed as they are monolithic solutions that are controlled end to end. Automation cannot be brought into this. But open vRAN offers CSPs the flexibility to find the best sources of innovation and plug them into their networks. Also, the beauty of SA 5G architecture is that the packet core is cloud-native. This allows rapid deployment, automation and monetisation of 5G.

What are some of the security trends in the 5G era? How can networks be secured?

The 3GPP standards have security built into them. From how the user is authenticated before getting on the network to how the traffic is ciphered, all that is part of the 3GPP standard. That does not ch­an­ge, whether you are deploying open vRAN or any other network. Security is one of our key requirements in the way we build products.