• Radisys, a RAN software provider owned by India’s Reliance Industries, is acquiring Mimosa Networks, which supplies fixed-wireless gear to Reliance’s mobile operator Jio.
• Both private and public investment dedicated to securing India’s telecom independence is surging in India as the country rolls out 5G.
Roughly four years after it acquired the company in late-2018, radio access networking (RAN) vendor Airspan recently announced it has agreed to sell Mimosa Networks, its fixed-wireless unit, to Radisys, a RAN software provider owned by Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, for $60 million. In 2022, Mimosa reported about $25 million in revenue.
Within Reliance Industries, Radisys is a direct subsidiary of Jio Platforms, which is also the parent company of Reliance Jio Infocomm, a mobile service provider in India that is currently migrating its nationwide 4G network to 5G. Jio Platforms has been a major Mimosa customer as well as an Airspan shareholder (it even holds a seat on Airspan’s board), and Reliance Jio has deployed a lot of Airspan’s 4G RAN gear.
Fixed wireless equipment like Mimosa’s is highly valued in India where fiber-to-the-home penetration is relatively low, but Mimosa has also established traction in the Americas, giving Jio plenty of room to expand the business globally.
The idea of a mobile operator selling to other operators the same equipment it uses in its own network is rare, but these days, it’s not unique. In 2021, Japanese ecommerce firm Rakuten spent more than $1 billion to acquire Altiostar Networks, the virtual RAN vendor supplying the nationwide network rollout of Rakuten’s operator subsidiary, Rakuten Mobile. And another Japanese operator, NTT DoCoMo, has positioned itself as a system integrator of sorts, supplying open RAN solutions comprised of third-party equipment to operators globally. Beyond selling the equipment, operators investing in their favorite vendors isn’t unprecedented, either; US operator Verizon has a stake in Verana Networks, which makes the millimeter-wave fixed-wireless gear that Verizon is trialing.
But India has its own unique dynamic at work in the backdrop of this deal. Jio’s move to acquire its own equipment business aligns with comments the company has made in recent years in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for a more self-reliant nation, which includes increasing India’s consumption of products made in India. Those efforts, combined with a rush of investment in building out the country’s 5G networks as well as expectations for an economic development surge resulting from 5G coverage, could accelerate what is already a swell of activity in India’s technology and telecom sectors.
In 2022, Tejas Networks, a broadband access vendor owned by India’s Tata Group, acquired Indian startup Saankhya Labs, a maker of wireless chips (both 5G and satellite communication) and 5G open RAN radios – balancing out its wireline portfolio with wireless counterparts to create a stronger networking player.
But public investment in India is making more significant strides. In fall 2022, another Reliance Industries subsidiary, Reliance Strategic Business Ventures, finalized a $221-million deal with US-based electronics firm Sanmina to create a technology manufacturing hub in India that the companies say will prioritize “high-technology infrastructure hardware for growth markets and across industries such as communications networking (5G, cloud infrastructure, hyperscale data centers)” and other areas. Around the same time, the government-owned Center for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) demonstrated a 5G call using a non-standalone core platform that C-DoT had developed itself (with help from Radisys, among other private firms). An official with India’s Department of Telecommunications says radios developed by the government could be available by March 2023.
The success of these efforts could be determined in part by the fact that they’re happening at a fortuitous time. A growing open vRAN movement offers opportunities for new players – in both the software and hardware domains – to join a RAN industry that has historically had much higher barriers to entry. The open RAN movement was launched in large part as a response to mobile operators’ frustration with a RAN vendor landscape that was too narrow and not sufficiently competitive, especially with geopolitical restrictions on vendors based in China (including in India). In the years ahead, India may broaden that vendor landscape in significant ways.