L&T Tech, BSNL in deal for private 5G

Amit Chadha, chief executive officer and managing director.
Amit Chadha, chief executive officer and managing director.


  • This strategic partnership marks the entry of L&T’s arm into the private 5G landscap

NEW DELHI : L&T Technology Services Ltd has tied up with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to deploy private 5G networks for enterprises in India, chief executive officer and managing director Amit Chadha said in an interview.

This strategic partnership marks the entry of L&T’s arm into the private 5G landscape, with BSNL providing spectrum and network infrastructure, and LTTS offering enterprises devices, applications, technology, software, sensors, servers, and core integration within the network infrastructure.

As part of its expansion plans, the engineering and research and development services providing division of L&T will focus on artificial intelligence (AI) at the same time as 5G, and will increase its workforce by five times to 1,000 in 2023. The company is also developing its proprietary BERT model, tailored for enterprise use, he added.

“This partnership is a perfect offering to enterprises with complementary network and digital capabilities coming from both organizations," Chadha said. It will also look at the global market as it starts offering the services from India.

A BSNL spokesperson confirmed the development. “5G is the next big enabler which can positively benefit the lives of millions of end-users, and we expect rapid adoption of private networks across use cases and major industries," he said.

Chadha said 5G will create a $1.3 trillion opportunity across healthcare, smart utilities, consumer and media applications, industrial manufacturing, and financial services.

“We play in areas of network maintenance, management, consulting, and rollout. So, the total addressable market will be $70 billion globally," he said, referring to enterprise 5G and its applications in augmented reality, virtual reality, and Internet of Things across sectors, including education and smart cities.

According to the International Data Corp., the global private 5G market is expected to exceed $8 billion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 35.7% starting 2022. Indian enterprises are increasingly deploying non-public networks as they require faster speeds and lower latency as industries move towards digitization and automation.

The government has decided against allocating spectrum directly to companies wanting to set up their own captive 5G networks, thus they will have to buy the airwaves through auctions. Alternatively, companies can lease spectrum from telcos having 5G airwaves to create networks for enterprises or partner with them to set up networks for own use.

While LTTS is using spectrum from BSNL, 5G networks’ privatization, including the ownership of spectrum was the preferred way for companies, Chaddha said, more so if manufacturing units or enterprises are located in poor connectivity zones, as it makes no business case for telecom service providers to set up networks. “We’re looking at it globally... Companies are coming to us from India, US, and Europe where the manufacturing units are located in far off, poor connectivity areas, and commercial service provider has no intent to establish networks because of (low) Arpu [average revenue per user]. So, it is in those areas we can step in and offer services."

The government is progressive in its outlook and may consider these implications in its regulations and rule-making, he added.

“The standards and rules around private 5G will have to evolve over time to allow private 5G enterprise networks to be able to transfer data to and from the cloud."

LTTS is increasing its workforce to develop solutions on AI from the existing 200 to over 1,000 within 12 months ,and a majority of hiring will be done in India where most of its research and development labs are located, he said.

“We are talking with hyperscalers that will help us take to the next level. Our generative AI work will focus on autonomous driving, manufacturing and healthcare. We’re also working on a BERT large language model."

The company is developing use cases to strengthen 5G in medical, industrial and defence, and is working with various standard bodies to implement 5G related standards for launches in India, the US and Europe.

LTTS has tied up with Nvidia and opensource provider Mavenir in Europe, and with Qualcomm in the US for private 5G networks. It will also announce a go-to-market partnership with a company from the Middle East. Having deployed its own commercial grade 5G network in Chennai, and an open-source network in Mysore, LTTS is working on developing 5G that works with Wi-Fi 6 standards at its laboratory in Munich, Germany. It is also setting up a network assurance and testing cloud lab in Santa Clara, California.

Chadha added that the company was working with Thales and Qualcomm for wiring up the tunnels in New York with 5G, for rail, signaling and communications, which once rolled out can also be brought to India.

On the other hand, several scalable projects that LTTS has done in India were being taken to other parts of the world, such as setting up 5 million smart meters, last mile internet connectivity for people through Bharat Net and setting up an AI solution for crowd-managing and facial recognition for 250 million people.

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