Open RAN Solutions are new destructive technologies that 5G mobile network operators are increasingly striving to adopt, today we have Mr. Parag Naik, co-founder and CEO, Saankhya Labs, who will share his views on Open RAN Solutions and 5G in India.
Can you tell us about Saankhya Laboratories, how you started and what you are doing now?
Saankhya Labs was founded in 2007 as a semiconductor solutions company, focusing on Software Defined Radios (SDRs). Until then, SDRs were seen mainly in the field of defense. We have also introduced SDRs in the consumer space. We have developed the world’s first production SDR chipsets. Our SDRs were the forerunners of all the software-defined radio access networks we see today. Since then, Saankhya has developed world-class products powered by internal, award-winning, patented SDR chipsets.
In 2012, we started developing wireless communication solutions. We have produced SDR chipsets and also products that are powered by these chipsets. These include fixed wireless access radios, satellite communication terminals and hub-side equipment.
In 2015, we signed an agreement with ISRO for the development of mobile satellite service terminals (MSS). These two-way MSS terminals are already installed in the 2600+ locomotive of the Indian Railway to facilitate two-way communication and loco tracking. We also received an order from the State Department of Fisheries to install our solution for tracking vessels on fishing boats.
In January 2020, our fixed wireless radios became the world’s first WiFAR-compliant TVWS products certified by the US FCC. In 2021, we became the first Indian company to have FCC-certified outdoor wireless communication equipment – Saankhya Broadcast Radio Head.
We currently 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. We are currently working on Open RAN based 5G solutions. These solutions will be the backbone of the next generation of 5G mobile networks.
You said that Saankhya laboratories focus on 5G RAN solutions. Can you tell us more about the developed solutions?
Saankhya Labs develops 5G RAN solutions based on Open RAN. These solutions include:
- 5G remote radio (RU) Saankhya 40Watt macro radios are based on ORAN 7.2x split specifications and are available in various band combinations – single-band, dual-band and tri-band versions.
- RAN-Wiser ™ allows disaggregation and de-connection of DU hardware and software. It allows seamless portability of DU software. It also allows mobile network operators to work with multiple DU hardware vendors without sacrificing the benefits of the COTS solution. In addition, Ran-WiserTM promotes the high PHY microservice design.
- The Open DU solution is a basic design for the vRAN hardware platform, based on the SDR architecture of Saankhya Labs. This 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 developed by Saankhya Labs that digitizes the network environment and helps with network planning and network operations. Helps with RF mapping of the terrain for network distribution. It uses AI / ML techniques to set RAN parameters and manage spectrum and will help reduce opex for mobile network operators.
How will Open RAN Solutions help companies like Saankhya Labs?
Open RAN Solutions are new destructive technologies that 5G mobile network operators are increasingly seeking to accept. Instead of relying on their own aggregated RF and basic equipment, mainly from a few dominant vendors, Open RAN solutions allow MNOs to operate a multi-vendor radio access network.
This search opens the door for companies such as Saankhya Labs, which already have experience in Open RAN and can develop hardware and software solutions for MNO. These solutions help to lower the ex and op-ex limit, thus reducing the total cost of ownership.
This advantage gives companies such as Saankhya Labs a platform to compete with larger vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei in the RAN space.
What are the challenges facing an Indian wireless communication solutions company like Saankhya Labs?
An Indian company for wireless communication solutions faces challenges on many fronts. It must compete with global multinational companies, which are very large organizations. These companies receive billions of dollars in investment and support from their respective governments in the form of tax breaks and incentives. The playing field is not flat, because we do not have such a military chest.
The Indian wireless communication solutions industry is in its infancy. Their number is small and we do not always have proven solutions on the market. As one of the first engines in this space, we face the problem of a lack of trust from our customers. It will take time and effort to build the belief that a small Indian company like ours can build world-class telecommunications products.
One of the main aspects of building world-class products is to solidify its field. Without adequate large-scale testing, it is difficult to harden the technology and make it ready for the market. Ideally, the government should support similar trials in India for Indian companies to allow them to compete with major global players.
What changes are needed to build a healthy 5G ecosystem in India?
First, we need some policy changes. The government must be proactive and encourage local technology providers. It needs to launch new schemes and expand existing incentive schemes such as PLI circuit, which offers huge benefits for local companies.
The government should also encourage local companies. This can be done by having some of the wireless networking solutions provided by Indian players. This will not only promote #AtmanirbharBharat, but will also ensure data security. There must also be a compensatory policy for the communications sector, as there is in the defense sector. This will ensure that foreign investors have to allocate resources to procure some solutions from Indian companies.
We must strive to adopt technology in tandem with the rest of the world. Large-scale testing of 5G solutions needs to be conducted to help home-grown companies test their solutions in real life. When Indian companies prove their technology, Indian MNOs will also be encouraged to use them. These changes will bring huge growth to the Indian ecosystem.