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UPDATE 2-Bharti Airtel partners with Qualcomm to drive 5G services in India

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·2 min read
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(Adds background on India telecom sector, 5G ambitions andcomments)

BENGALURU, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Bharti Airtel Ltdsaid on Tuesday it will work with U.S. chipmaker Qualcommfor 5G services in India, as telecom firms in theworld's second-largest wireless market gear up to usher in thelatest generation of wireless networks.

Airtel, placed second to Reliance Industries-owned Jio bysubscribers, said in a statement to stock exchanges that it willuse Qualcomm's Radio Access Network platforms, which runsservices on the cloud, to roll out 5G networks in the country.

"This collaboration ... aims to allow a faster rollout ofbroadband services ... across India for "last mile" connectivitychallenges that are becoming increasingly important in today'sremote, mobile-first society," Airtel said.

Although the need for high-speed internet has beenhighlighted in the pandemic-led work-from-home year, India's 5Gambitions have been buffeted by delays in auction of airwavesthat support the technology.

Concerns have also been raised by telecoms around therelatively high pricing of spectrum in India.

While the country is set to auction some airwaves in March,bands that support 5G will only be auctioned sometime in thenext six months, the Parliamentary Standing Committee onInformation Technology said in a report http://164.100.47.193/lsscommittee/Information%20Technology/17_Information_Technology_21.pdfon India's 5G preparedness.

The technology ultimately promises internet speeds up to 20times faster than existing networks.

Jio has previously said it built an in-house 5G solution andis ready to roll out services as soon as airwaves are madeavailable. Parent Reliance last year raised about $97 millionfrom Qualcomm for its digital unit that houses Jio.

Still, Airtel has seen gains in market share faster thanbillionaire Mukesh Ambani's Jio over the last few months of2020, according to regulatory data.

Airtel's tie-up also comes after Indian government officialsexpressed concerns over mobile carriers' use of telecom gearfrom Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei, which has beenaccused of spying by the United States.(Reporting by Philip George and Chris Thomas in Bengaluru;Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Vinay Dwivedi)