Bharti Airtel Ltd GPRS GSM Network, India
Bharti Airtel Ltd is one of the largest mobile telecoms providers in India (26.5% market share). In August 2006 the company awarded Ericsson an extension to the existing contract of US$1bn to upgrade and develop its GSM/GPRS network.
The new three year services agreement will see Ericsson manage design, development and deployment of the network, including capacity and coverage, enabling the operator to expand in rural India and reach out to all the towns and cities across 15 regions.
Ericsson is also to upgrade the network with mobile softswitch (Media Gateway and MSC Servers). This technology will eventually give way to an all-IP network. Then, Bharti Airtel will be able to reduce its operational costs and introduce new services in a cost-efficient manner.
Mats Granryd, managing director of Ericsson India, said: "We are honoured and pleased that Bharti Airtel has chosen us as a partner to expand its coverage across India, particularly in the untapped rural areas."
Bharti's market value is U$16.5bn; just over 30% is owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd and nearly 10% by Vodafone Group Plc.
All of the three main players in the Indian mobile communications market –Bharti, Reliance and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd – are targeting the rural areas of the Indian subcontinent. Over two thirds of India's population live in rural surroundings and in these telecoms have not really made their presence felt to any real extent.
With three companies driving technology into this sector of the market the effect is likely to be a boom in telecoms demand. It is probable in these rural areas that cheap call rates will link with state-of-the-art technology to boost teledensity and offer more freedom.
India adds 5 million mobile subscribers per month across the board and one quarter of these become Bharti subscribers. Bharti's mobile subscriber base is now just shy of 25 million. The carrier added 1.26 million mobile subscribers in July 2006 alone, bringing the total to 24.34 million. As a whole the Indian mobile market is growing by 5% per year.
Ericsson is a long-term partner of Bharti and manages more than 70% of the company's existing GSM/GPRS network within 15 of the 23 Indian telecoms regions. To meet increased demand for value-added services at that time Bharti required a Mobile Packet Backbone Network (M-PBN) and Ericsson was able to provide the technology, alongside enhanced data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) technology.
Following these earlier successes, Ericsson was optimistic of winning new orders from Bharti (previous orders obtained were worth US$650m in 2004 and 2005). Bharti’s ambition is to bring its network to every one of the 5,200 towns described as census towns by the Indian authorities by March 2007, an expansion of 1,000 over the present total.
Bharti hopes to achieve with Ericsson's expertise a competitive edge over its rivals – ultimately by having better coverage and eventually with more cost-effective technology in place.
NOT FORGETTING THE OTHER EIGHT REGIONS
In October 2006 Bharti Airtel also signed a $400m network expansion contract with Nokia to expand its managed GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks in eight regions not covered by Ericsson. The eight telecom regions include Mumbai, Maharashtra and Goa, Gujarat, Bihar (including Jharkhand), Orissa, Kolkata, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh (including Chattisgarh).
Nokia will also deploy wireless application protocol (WAP) technology across the whole national network to enhance its mobile packet core network capabilities. The WAP gateway will enable easy usage of data services and increase content consumption on the Airtel network. Nokia will provide consulting services and integrate the WAP gateway into a multi-vendor environment.
The network monitoring operations will be carried out from Nokia's state-of-the-art global network services centre in Chennai. It will deploy the latest radio and core network equipment, including softswitch, flexi-base stations and mini-Ultrasite base stations. It will also provide services based on Bharti’s capacity requirements, delivering a cost-efficient rollout of on-demand capacity.
BHARTI TELEVENTURES AND AN EYE ON FUTURE TECHNOLOGY
Bharti as Bharti TeleVentures has also been preparing for an advanced IP network by signing a ten year deal in 2004 with IBM for a managed service delivery platform in a deal that could be worth over US$750m.
Bharti TeleVentures also signed a five-year managed services agreement with Nortel Networks in March 2006. Nortel is hosting contact centre services for more than 19.7 million subscribers to Bharti's Airtel GSM mobile, broadband and fixed-line services. Nortel will create a network operations centre in New Delhi and provide network design, integration, support and maintenance services for Bharti's contact centre architecture.
A 24/7 voice portal based on Nortel's interactive voice response solution will be the basis of the new contact centre operation. Calling one number from anywhere in India, customers will be able to speak in English, Hindi, or four other regional languages to complete routine transactions and subscribe to new services while the system interacts with them in a natural, conversational manner. Nortel has also designed the architecture for future interactive video response capability.