Bharti Airtel and Qualcomm joined forces to deploy a virtualised and open RAN-based 5G network in India, seeking to speed rollout of the next-generation technology.

In a joint statement, the operator committed to explore and implement open RAN using Qualcomm’s 5G RAN platforms, highlighting the potential to unlock opportunities for SMEs.

Bharti Airtel CTO Randeep Sekhon said the operator’s networks are “fully ready for 5G”, adding the collaboration would help push India into the era of “hyper-fast and ultra-low latency digital connectivity”.

The pair will also collaborate on 5G use cases including fixed wireless access.

Qualcomm India VP and president Rajen Vagadia highlighted socio-economic growth and development benefits from accelerated 5G rollout.

The deal adds to Airtel’s current portfolio of 5G partners, including Cisco and Ericsson.

An auction of 5G frequencies in India has been postponed twice, with the amount of spectrum to be offered still unclear.