Till now, Samsung was the sole supplier for Jio’s 4G network equipment, but Reliance Jio has since then decided to include Ericsson, Nokia Networks and Chinese company Huawei, in addition to Samsung, for the 5G trials.
Reliance Jio wants to start the 5G mobile network trials in India and has approached the Government of India in order to do so. The most interesting aspect of this development is perhaps the fact that Reliance Jio wants to use network technology that they have developed and not necessarily rely on third party network equipment. This is according to sources familiar with the development, as reported by Business Standard. The report quotes sources as saying that if the 5G technology trials are successful, the design and technology for the equipment may be outsourced for manufacturing. In August 2018, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had released recommendations for promoting local telecom equipment manufacturing which pushed for local designing and manufacturing of telecom network equipment.
TRAI had noted that “all telecom products meant for use in the telecommunication network or by consumer and marketed in the country should be classified as either fully finished imported products or Indigenous products. Indigenous products should be further classified into Made in India Products, Designed in India Products or Designed and Made in India Products,” in the recommendations. At the time, Chinese company Huawei was embroiled in a global controversy about suspicions that they had built a backdoor into their networks which allowed the Chinese authorities to potentially snoop—and that was building momentum in many countries including India to develop 5G products. Reliance Jio’s 5G products could be classified in the Designed in India Products or Designed and Made in India Products categories.
Till now, Samsung was the sole supplier for Jio’s 4G network equipment, but Reliance Jio has since then decided to include Ericsson, Nokia Networks and Chinese company Huawei, in addition to Samsung, for the 5G trials. Reliance Jio has enough expertise in-house to develop and design 5G network equipment. Rancore Technologies, which was earlier a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd. was merged into Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd in 2017, along with Infotel Telecom Ltd. While Reliance Jio held the unified telecom license, Infotel Telecom Ltd had long-distance telephone service licenses and Rancore Technologies was focusing on research and development.
Rivals are a bit unsure about the 5G rollout in India, at this time. Airtel signed a deal with Ericsson last year to enable 5G-ready cloud packet core to its network while Huawei has installed transmission equipment that allows data transmission between two mobile towers, for the 5G networks. However, the company insists that they will not bid for 5G spectrum at the current price recommendations—the latest confirmation coming at the quarterly earnings call in February. Vodafone has also tied up with multiple partners including Huawei, but their position on 5G spectrum auctions and the 5G trials remains unclear against the backdrop of the precarious financial position owing to the AGR dues payments.