Finnish network equipment provider, Nokia, has signed a deal with Indian mobile network operator, Bharti Airtel, to supply 300,000 4G base stations to help boost capacity across its networks.
The deal will apply to 9 distinct districts in India, and will allow Airtel to add capacity to its 4G networks in some remote and rural locations across the country.
The 300,000 radio units will be deployed across several spectrum bands, including 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz, with the rollout expected to be completed by 2022.
“Airtel has consistently topped network performance charts in studies conducted by multiple global experts. We are committed to continuously invest in emerging network technologies to provide a best-in-class experience to our customers. This initiative with Nokia is a major step in this direction. We have been working with Nokia for more than a decade now and are delighted to use Nokia’s SRAN products in further improving the capacity and coverage of our network as we prepare for the 5G era,” said Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO for India and South Asia at Bharti Airtel.
India is experiencing a huge increase in demand for digital services, with network traffic increasing by 47 per cent in 2019, according to Nokia’s MBiT Index 2020.
Nokia claims that the deal will also help to pave the way for 5G services to be launched in India, with the strengthening of the country’s 4G networks making spectrum sharing a viable strategy for operators in the years ahead.
The GSMA predicts that India will have 88 million 5G subscribers by the end of 2025.
“This is an important agreement for the future of connectivity in one of the world’s largest telecoms markets and solidifies our position in India. We have worked closely with Bharti Airtel for many years and are delighted to extend this long-standing partnership further. This project will enhance their current networks and deliver best-in-class connectivity to Airtel customers but also lay the foundations for 5G services in the future,” said Rajeev Suri, President and Chief Executive Officer at Nokia.
The deal comes at a time when Nokia is struggling to make an impression on 5G in Asian markets, with the Finnish vendor failing to win any 5G contracts from neighbouring China. This deal with Bharti Airtel will be seen as a key step to securing a foothold for 5G in the world’s second largest telecoms market.