LOS ANGELES — Reliance Jio has been operating a 4G network in India for only a couple of years, and the company has already become one of the largest mobile providers in the world.
“It’s a pure 4G, VoLTE network,” said Ayush Sharma, SVP of engineering and technology with Reliance Jio. “We have 170 million active paying subscribers. We are officially the world’s largest mobile data provider for 4G LTE.”
Sharma said Reliance Jio surpasses even China Mobile in terms of 4G customers, although China Mobile is still the largest mobile provider in the world if you count its 2G and 3G subscribers. But Reliance’s goals are aggressive. It hopes to reach 400 million subscribers by the end of 2018. Sharma said the company is erecting 6,000 wireless towers per day.
Reliance Jio is disrupting the mobile ecosystem in India. “There’s a lot of consolidation that has happened since Jio has entered,” said Sharma. The main competitors are Bharti Airtel, which has about 280 million subscribers, and Vodafone India, which is in the process of merging with Idea Cellular. The combined Vodafone/Idea will have more than 400 million customers on the subcontinent.
In February 2017, Cisco said it had won a deal with Reliance Jio to help build its all-IP network in India. “We have no circuit switches whatever,” said Mathew Oommen, president of Reliance Jio, at the Mobile World Congress event in 2017. “Today with Cisco we have 150,000 routers on the network. We believe it will double.”
Cisco is one of two dominant vendors helping to build Reliance Jio’s network. The other is Samsung, which snagged a $10 billion deal with Reliance, according to Sharma. Samsung is providing the LTE core, base stations, and other solutions required for voice over LTE (VoLTE) services.
Other vendors involved in Reliance Jio’s greenfield LTE buildout include Nokia Networks and Mavenir, which are providing technologies such as eNodeB and IP multi-media subsystem (IMS). “The optical network is largely Ciena,” said Sharma.
The Indian operator is also tapping open source code, sometimes customizing it to suit its needs. It uses OpenStack, mostly from Mirantis. It used the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) to build its own management and network orchestration software named Jio MANO, which is in pre-production. And it built its own software-defined networking (SDN) controller, cherry picking features from both ONOS and OpenDaylight.
“We have a disaggregated strategy,” said Sharma. The company has explored using the extensible radio access network (xRAN) software. (As a side note, the xRAN Forum has recently became part of the ORAN Alliance.) And Reliance Jio is also looking at the ONF’s Stratum project and the Linux Foundation’s DANOS software.