Bharti Airtel has signed multi-year 5G equipment supply deals worth about $2.5 billion (more than Rs 19,750 crore) with Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and South Korea’s Samsung to start deployment of the next generation networks from August.
While the partnership with Ericsson and Nokia has been long-standing, Samsung is the new addition, with India’s second largest telecom company officially shutting out Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE from its 5G deployments.
“Our network agreements are finalised and Airtel will work with the best technology partners from across the world to deliver the full benefits of 5G connectivity to our consumers,” Bharti Airtel managing director Gopal Vittal said in a statement on Wednesday.
He said the telco will commence roll-out of 5G services in August.
ET had first reported on the likelihood of Bharti Airtel network deals on July 27.
While neither the telco nor its partners specified the scope or the value of their individual deals, people familiar with the matter told ET that the combined value of the pacts with the three companies amounts to around $2.5 billion. Ericsson and Nokia have jointly bagged 90% of the contract value, while Samsung has the balance.
Out of the 22 circles, Ericsson will deploy 5G networks for Bharti Airtel in 11 circles, including Delhi, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, Nokia in nine circles, including Mumbai, and Samsung in two circles, Punjab and Kolkata. All three contracts are for deployments of 5G radio access network gear.
Bharti Airtel did not respond to ET’s queries on the deals.
The 5G equipment deals follow Bharti Airtel's participation in the recently concluded 5G auctions where the telecom company acquired the right to use 19867.8 MHz of spectrum in 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz bands for 20 years by paying Rs 43,084 crore.
“With Ericsson’s unrivalled, global 5G deployment experience, we will help Bharti Airtel deliver the full benefits of 5G to Indian consumers and enterprises, while seamlessly evolving the Bharti network from 4G to 5G,” Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm said in a statement.
Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark said, “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.”
Samsung is the latest vendor to be part of Bharti Airtel’s network.
“5G will have a powerful impact on India’s consumers and businesses – taking mobile experiences to a new level, introducing a gamut of enhanced capabilities and expanding what is possible,” said Paul (Kyungwhoon) Cheun, president, Samsung Electronics.
Samsung was the sole 4G supplier for Reliance Jio, but will now get a foothold, albeit limited, into Bharti Airtel.
“This is because Samsung does not have a strong 5G portfolio,” said Ashwinder Sethi, principal analyst at Analysys Mason, adding that product offerings from Ericsson and Nokia have a slight edge.
Sethi also said that it is operationally more feasible to continue with the same vendors. “It allows them backward compatibility. Voice will still be carried on the legacy networks. It becomes operationally much easier to go with the same vendors,” he said.
Bharti Airtel will be aggressive in deploying 5G in the big metros and key urban centres.
“In the initial roll-out, assumed to be in the top metros, Airtel will upgrade around 30,000-odd sites to 5G using the network equipment from the three vendors,” Sethi said, adding that the first list will include Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and other big cities.