Airtel awards Rs 3,350 crore 4G contract to Nokia
NEW DELHI,Oct18: Bharti Airtel, the country’s leading telecom operator, has awarded a big-ticket 4G deployment and expansion contract worth around $500 million to Finnish telecom gear vendor Nokia. By giving this contract, Bharti Airtel is expediting its network expansion and ramping up capacities to counter the looming threat from Reliance Jio, which is currently offering free services in the country, industry watchers say.
Nokia and Bharti Airtel didn’t share the value of the contract. However, a person familiar with the development said that the contract value hovers around $500 million.
The new agreement with Nokia will see Airtel expand the deployment of 4G technology in three new circles — Gujarat, Bihar, and UP East — telecom circle, in addition to six circles — Mumbai, MP, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab and Kerala circles — it already serves.
Nokia will deploy its 4G FDD-LTE and TD-LTE technology across nine of the telco’s circles in India including the regions of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rest of Bengal, Odisha, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Kerala and UP East, serving major cities such as Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Patna and Siliguri.
Analysys Mason’s head for India and South Asia, Rohan Dhamija said that the contract is reflective of the trends and technology advancements in data market. On demand side, consumer are going to use more data, while on the supply side, standards are getting evolved.
“Given the expected data boom, and carrier aggregation across FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE, this expansion becomes relevant for Bharti Airtel,” Dhamija added. .
The new deployment will allow Bharti Airtel to provide improved coverage and faster mobile Internet access, while laying the foundation for the delivery of enhanced video services and other on-demand applications.
“We are pleased to continue to leverage Nokia’s leading radio access technology and services expertise to expand 4G capacity and coverage and further increase the quality of service for subscribers,” Bharti Airtel said in a statement.
Under the deal, Nokia said that it will also expand Bharti Airtel’s 3G network in eight of the territories as part of this rollout and modernization of legacy 2G base stations.
“We have a long history of working with Bharti Airtel and with this latest agreement we have become the largest supplier of 4G for the company. This network expansion will provide the capacity, coverage and speeds the company needs to meet the next wave of data demand in India,” Sanjay Malik, head of India Market at Nokia, said in a statement.
The 4G rollout uses Nokia’s radio access with Single RAN technology for FDD-LTE and TD-LTE. The gear vendor said that it will provide professional services including network integration and network planning and optimization.
According to Nokia’s 2016 MBiT Index report, India’s 4G LTE device ecosystem reported an eightfold increase in 2015, while other statistics showed that access to news, video content, gaming and social media accounts for 60 percent of India’s total mobile data traffic – and it is rising.
To address this growth, Bharti Airtel has recently acquired 173.8 Mhz spectrum across three spectrum bands that include 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz for a total of Rs 14, 244 crore, in the recently concluded spectrum sale by the government.
The telco further strengthened its pan-India spectrum portfolio and secured its spectrum requirements for the next 20 years, and has airwaves across 4G and 3G spectrum in all circles.