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CEO of Airtel Business, Telecom News, ET Telecom

Airtel Business CEO Ajay Chitkara. (Picture via Linkedin)

Bharti Airtel is bullish on opportunities in the business sector as the telecom company rolls out a next-generation (5G) network and said it has made the best possible investments in spectrum as well as technology to deliver superior customer experience. In an interaction with ETTelecom’s Muntazir Abbas, Ajay Chitkara, CEO of Airtel Business discussions on recent partnerships, trial use cases and the private 5G network. Edited excerpts.

You have partnered with the American technology multinational IBM. What is the scope of this partnership?

One of our big pillars in the 5G partner ecosystem is kind of a capacity building and use case building game, but there are a lot of other people working on the same idea. So, we thought, we’ll just partner with them. We wanted to use that for IBM and for many others, we did that by building an entire ecosystem of hyperscalers, consulting firms, systems integrators, and partners like IBM. So there are two actions that we take – one, we build solutions for the vertical, and the second – we build the cloud services infrastructure at the edge.

So, are you getting ready for business?

We build solutions for business verticals. We announced Bosch, we also announced Apollo, and now we’re announcing this partnership to build this edge cloud at scale in these 120 data centers, so we’re starting with a few sites. We work with Maruti. It’s best summed up there and then we’ll expand it.

How soon will you be able to expand this edge computing capacity to 120 data center cities?

We already have an infrastructure and with the broadband network available, we now have several customers. So, depending on the market reaction, 5G will be rolled out. So I think that in the next few months it should be expanded.

Are you seeing traction as you focus on client businesses?

Everything is business. And we’re going to build an edge cloud.

Last week we also announced the CDN (content delivery network) server. So there’s also basically a 120-slot edge cloud, and then there’s multiple services. The first is CDN as you need to take a look at the lowest latency. Second, a cloud that will be used by Industry 4.0. Some manufacturers will continue to launch different applications.

What are the real use cases you envision once you launch 5G?

We have already announced some of them, such as in the field of health. We announced that Industry 4.0, factory environment like Bosch, we are doing real use cases on the mining side. So I would say there are several industries right now. Everyone wants to know what more they can do to digitize and transform their business. So, I would say that there are too many innovations and that we participate from all possible sides.

So, are there any discussions with any of the big companies for a possible use case?

30 to 50 use cases are tested or tested in 30 to 40 different companies. We tried different types of use cases in a pilot process.

Are other companies coming to you for a private 5G network?

I cannot declare the name before closing. We have already partnered with Bosch for a private 5G network. Maruti is another use case.

Is private 5G a good opportunity for telecom operators like you, given the current regulatory scenario?

We all think this is going to be a great opportunity for us with an already very strong player in B2B (business-to-business). We are very excited.

Do you play an end-to-end role as a system integrator and service provider in a captive network landscape?

We play an end-to-end role and in some cases we are part of a consortium and in some cases we support the clients. The mindset is to solve the customer’s problem rather than do everything by ourselves and that’s why the partnership is very convenient.

How do you position yourself in 5G as a telecom operator? Are you using 5G NSA (non-standalone) mode?

In terms of technology and spectrum, we have already made the best possible investment. We will build a 5G network that will give us the best quality experience.

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