Nokia closes capacity and customer experience tech deal with Bharti Airtel

Third-largest telco in the world’s second-largest telecoms market takes up Nokia Single Radio Access Network to enhance capacity and improve 5G readiness

Nokia has signed a multi-year deal with Bharti Airtel, India’s third-largest telco, for technology to boost network capacity and customer experience.

The Finnish comms technology provider regards the deal as an important step in the future of connectivity, solidifying its position in one of the world’s largest telecoms markets.

India is the second-largest telecoms market in the world and, according to research from global mobile trade association the GSMA, is expected to reach 920 million unique mobile customers by 2025, including 88 million 5G connections. The country is experiencing a massive increase in demand for data services, with traffic increasing by 47% in 2019 alone, according to Nokia’s MBiT Index 2020.

The multi-year agreement will see Bharti Airtel deploy Nokia’s single radio access network (SRAN) system across nine of the 22 circles into which India’s telecoms regulators have divided the country, helping Airtel to enhance the network capacity of its networks, in particular 4G, and improve customer experience.

The roll-out, which will also lay the foundation for providing future 5G connectivity, will see about 300,000 radio units deployed across several spectrum bands, including 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2300MHz. It is expected to be completed by 2022.

Nokia says the networks in which its technology will be used will give Airtel the best possible platform for when 5G networks launch across India, with their low latency and faster speeds. It cited as proof of this a 2109 study from independent network performance testing company RootMetrics, which recognised Nokia as market leader in LTE in terms of performance, including network speed, network reliability and data performance.

Nokia, which will be the sole provider of SRAN in the nine circles, says its technology will help Airtel address growing demand by adding network capacity and ensuring a superior quality of customer experience. Nokia’s SRAN is designed to help operators manage their 2G, 3G and 4G networks from one platform, reducing network complexity, increasing cost efficiencies and future-proofing investment.

“Airtel has consistently topped network performance charts in studies conducted by multiple global experts,” said Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO (India and South Asia) at Bharti Airtel. “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.”

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The deal will also include Nokia’s RAN equipment, including its AirScale Radio Access, AirScale BaseBand and NetAct OSS, which will help Airtel to monitor and manage its network. Nokia Global Services will also play a role in the installation, planning and deployment of the project, which will be executed via the cloud-based Nokia Delivery Platform.

“We have worked closely with Bharti Airtel for many years and are delighted to extend this long-standing partnership further,” said Rajeev Suri, president and chief executive officer at Nokia. “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.”

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