Open RAN Disruptive Technology, to Help With 5G: Parag Naik

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Open RAN Solutions are new disruptive technologies that 5G mobile network operators are increasingly looking to adopt, today we have Mr Parag Naik, Co-Founder and CEO, Saankhya Labs who will be sharing his views on Open RAN Solutions and 5G in India.

Can You Tell Us About Saankhya Labs, How You Started, and What Are You Doing Now?

Saankhya Labs was founded in 2007 as a semiconductor solutions company, with a focus on Software, Defined Radios (SDRs). Until then, SDRs were primarily seen in the defence domain. We introduced SDRs into the consumer space as well. We developed the world’s first in-production SDR chipsets. Our SDRs were precursors to all the Software Defined Radio Access Networks that we see today. Since then, Saankhya has developed world-class products powered by in-house, award-winning, patented SDR chipsets.

In 2012, we began developing wireless communication solutions. We produced SDR chipsets and also products that are powered by these chipsets. These included Fixed Wireless Access Radios, Broadcast Radios Satellite Communication terminals and hub-side equipment.

In 2015, we signed an agreement with ISRO to develop Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) terminals. These 2-way MSS terminals are now installed in 2600+ Indian Railway locomotives to facilitate 2-way communication and loco-tracking. We have also received an order from a State Fisheries Department to install our Vessel Tracking Solution on fishing boats.

In Jan 2020, our Fixed Wireless Access Radios became the world’s first WiFAR standard-compliant TVWS products to be certified by FCC of USA. In 2021, we became the first Indian company to have FCC certified outdoor wireless communication equipment - Saankhya Broadcast Radio Head.

At present, we have 70 international patents for our products, technologies and solutions.

We are now developing end-to-end communication platforms with three focus areas – 5G RAN, 5G Broadcast and Satcom Solutions. At present, we are working on Open RAN based solutions for 5G. These solutions will be the backbone of next-gen 5G mobile networks.

You Said That Saankhya Labs Is Focusing on 5G RAN Solutions. Can You Please Tell Us More About the Solutions Being Developed?

Saankhya Labs is developing 5G RAN solutions based on Open RAN. These solutions include:

  • 5G Remote Radio Unit (RU) Saankhya 40Watt macro Radio Units are based on ORAN 7.2x split specifications and are available in various band combinations - single band, dual-band and Tri-band variants.
  • RAN-WiserTM enables disaggregation and de-coupling of DU hardware and software. It enables the seamless portability of DU software. It also allows mobile network operators to work with multiple DU hardware vendors without sacrificing COTS solution benefits. In addition, Ran-WiserTM promotes the microservice design of High PHY.
  • Open DU solution is a ground-up design for the vRAN hardware platform based on Saankhya Labs’ SDR architecture. It will allow global operators access to an open and dynamic hardware platform that will save on cap-ex and op-ex
  • Radio Mapping is a solution being developed by Saankhya Labs, which digitizes the network environment and helps in network planning and network operations. It helps in RF mapping of the terrain for network rollout. It uses AI/ML techniques for tuning RAN parameters and spectrum management and will help in reducing opex for Mobile Network Operators.

How Will Open RAN Solutions Help Companies Like Saankhya Labs?

Open RAN Solutions are new disruptive technologies that 5G mobile network operators are increasingly looking to adopt. Instead of relying on proprietary aggregated RF and baseband equipment, mainly from a few dominant vendors, Open RAN solutions allow MNOs to work with a multi-vendor radio access network.

Open RAN 5G

This demand opens doors for companies like Saankhya Labs, which already possess Open RAN expertise and can develop hardware and software solutions for MNOs. These solutions help in lowering the cap-ex and op-ex, thus lowering the Total Cost of Ownership.

This advantage gives companies like Saankhya Labs a platform to compete with larger vendors like Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei in the RAN space.

What Are the Challenges Faced by an Indian Wireless Communication Solutions Company Like Saankhya Labs?

An Indian wireless communication solutions company faces challenges on multiple fronts. It has to compete with global multinationals, which are very large organizations. These companies receive billions of dollars as investment and support, from their respective governments, in the form of tax breaks and incentives. The playing field is not level, as we do not have that kind of war chest.

The Indian wireless communication solutions industry is at a nascent stage. Their numbers are few, and we do not always have market-proven solutions. As one of the first movers in this space, we face the problem of trust deficit from our customers. It will take us time and effort to build the belief that a small Indian company like ours can build world-class telecom products.

One of the main aspects of building world-class products is to make its field hardened. Without adequate large-scale trials, it is difficult to harden technology and make it market-ready. Ideally, the government should support such trials in India for Indian companies so as to enable them to compete with large global players.

What Changes Are Needed to Build a Robust 5G Ecosystem in India?

First, we need some policy changes. The government has to be proactive and must promote home-grown technology providers. It must launch new schemes and broaden existing incentive schemes like the PLI scheme, which offers immense benefits to domestic companies.

The govt must also incentivise indigenous companies. It can do this by mandating that a portion of the wireless network solutions will be supplied by Indian players. This will not only promote #AtmanirbharBharat, but also ensure data security. There should also be an offset policy for the communication sector like there is in the defence sector. This will ensure that foreign investors must allocate resources to source some solutions from Indian companies.

We must aim to adopt technologies in tandem with the rest of the world. Large-scale 5G solutions trials must be conducted to help home-grown companies to test their solutions in real-life conditions. When Indian companies prove their technologies, Indian MNOs will also be encouraged to use them. These changes will inject huge growth into the Indian ecosystem.

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Tanay is someone with whom you can chill and talk about technology and life. A fitness enthusiast and cricketer, he loves to read and write.

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