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Reliance eyes Indian startups to roll out 5G solutions

Reliance had said its 5G solution will be ready for trials as soon as the 5G spectrum is available and can be ready for field deployment by next year.

A month after announcing its plans to roll out 5G solutions in India, Reliance Industries, country’s largest company by market capitalization, is scouting startups to help it get closer to its 5G dream.

According to a report by local media Economic Times (ET), the oil-to-internet conglomerate’s in-house startup accelerator, Reliance Jio GenNext has made several buyout and investment proposals to local startups that are working on 5G technologies.

“Some of the domestic companies have recently received business proposals from Reliance Jio GenNext, which wants to acquire local firms developing 5G technology-based solutions,” the report said, quoting one source.

Jio is eyeing those companies that are in final stages to develop 5G components or radio network products since starting from scratch will only drag the final outcome by “almost four years,” another source said.

In 2018, Reliance had acquired US-based Radisys, which offers software, products, integrated systems, and professional services for communication service providers and telecom solution vendors. Now it is looking to pick up local companies that can further build on the company’s acquired capabilities.

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Read this: A brief history of Reliance’s digital venture, Jio Platforms

During the company’s 43rd annual general meeting, Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest person, and chairman and managing director of Reliance, said the company had already “designed and developed a complete 5G solution from scratch.” He added that the “made-in-India 5G solution” will be ready for trials as soon as the 5G spectrum is available and can be ready for field deployment by next year.

According to Ambani, Reliance’s digital arm Jio Platforms would be well-positioned to be an exporter of 5G solutions to other telecom operators globally, as a complete managed service.

Set up in 2013, Jio GenNext has mentored over 135 startups under its wings. It has partnerships with other startup accelerators, incubators, and angel networks like Microsoft Accelerator, Google Cloud, LetsVenture, 10,000 Startups by industry body NASSCOM, and Venture Catalysts, among others.

The Reliance-backed startup accelerator advises and mentors founders to launch their startup and helps them with commercial partnerships and strategic investments.

There are a number of domestic startups that are in advanced stages of developing open-source software-based 5G solutions such as Vihaan Networks, Himachal Futuristic Communications, Tejas Networks, Lekha Wireless, Signalchip, Nivetti, Mymo Wireless, and Niral Networks, according to the ET report. Of these Bengaluru-based Niral Networks, has received the proposal from Reliance, it said.

“We have been interested in selling our networking equipment to Jio. Our home-grown solution is an alternative to the likes of Huawei and Cisco,” a Niral Networks spokesperson told ET.  “If Jio can support us in our vision by using our product in their 5G network, it will also help us grow internationally.”

As such, Reliance has a network of around 20 startups which it has either acquired or invested in over the last four years.  These are now a part of Jio Platforms, which raised over USD 20 billion earlier this year from high-profile investors including Google and Facebook and has more than enough capital to splurge.

Reliance aims to use Jio Platforms to offer a broad range of digital services across areas such as commerce, education, entertainment, security, healthcare, and smart devices. The proposed roll out of a full suite of 5G solution and services will be under Jio Infocomm, the group’s telecom arm, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jio Platforms.