Airtel 5G deployment to begin this August

Nokia today signed a partnership with top telecom operator Bharti Airtel for the implementation of 5G radio access networks (RAN). This multi-year agreement comes on the heels of the recently concluded 5G spectrum auctions and the allocation of pan-India spectrum to Bharti Airtel, demonstrating the company’s commitment to ushering India into the 5G era. To recall, in India’s 5G auction, Airtel acquired 5G spectrum worth Rs. 43,084 crore.

Furthermore, Airtel also announced today that it has secured 5G network contracts with Ericsson and Samsung, and said that 5G deployment will start in August 2022. While the agreement with Samsung will start this year, Airtel has a long-standing connection with Ericsson for connectivity and Pan-India managed services. The Department of Telecom in India recently held spectrum auctions, where Airtel participated and won 19867.8 MHz of spectrum in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 3300 MHz bands, as well as 26 GHz frequency bands.

Ericsson has been Airtel’s long-standing connection collaborator and pan-India managed services provider for more than 25 years, spanning every generation of mobile communications. The latest 5G collaboration comes after India’s 5G spectrum auctions concluded. Airtel will use the Ericsson Radio System, including Ericsson microwave mobile transport technologies, to deliver power-efficient 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) products and solutions. Ericsson will supply 5G connectivity to Bharti Airtel in 12 circles (geographical regions in India).

Nokia will supply equipment from its market-leading AirScale portfolio, which includes modular and scalable baseband and high-capacity 5G massive MIMO radios. A contract for the deployment of a 5G radio access network with a market share of approximately 45 percent was also awarded. In addition, the company will offer its market-leading AirScale Base Station portfolio, marking over 18 years of ongoing cooperation with Bharti Airtel in India spanning RAN technologies like 2G, 3G, 4G, and now 5G.

Power-efficient 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment will be used by Airtel. Additionally, since the 4G coverage is almost entirely complete, 5G Capex in 2023–2024 will replace the existing 4G Capex. In preparation for the rollout of 5G services, Airtel will strengthen their fibre infrastructure by linking towers with fibre and backhaul infrastructure.

Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO of Bharti Airtel, said,

We are pleased to continue our partnership with Nokia and take India into the 5G era. Airtel has always believed that the real leverage of 5G technology will come from the capacity to build an ecosystem across devices, networks, applications, and services. As mobile penetration increases across India, mobile telecom services will have a transformative impact across all sectors of the economy. Airtel is investing in the right areas and working with the right partners to serve our customers even better.

Pekka Lundmark, President and CEO at Nokia said,

This landmark deal reinforces our long-standing partnership with Bharti Airtel. We are delighted that they have chosen Nokia’s best-in-class AirScale baseband and radio portfolio to deliver superior 5G performance in one of the world’s largest networks. I look forward to our continued successful long-term collaboration in this vital and dynamic market.

Börje Ekholm, President and CEO, Ericsson, said,

We look forward to supporting Bharti Airtel with its deployment of 5G in India. With Ericsson’s unrivaled global 5G deployment experience, we will help Bharti Airtel to deliver the full benefits of 5G to Indian consumers and enterprises, while seamlessly evolving the Bharti network from 4G to 5G. 5G will enable India to realize its Digital India vision and foster inclusive development of the country.