Bharti Airtel (Airtel), on Wednesday, said it has signed 5G network agreements with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung to commence 5G deployment from this month. The company acquired 5G spectrum worth ₹43,084 crore in the just-concluded auction.
It may be noted that the company did not sign any fresh deals with Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE, who were the main vendors for rolling out 4G, because of the new ‘trusted source’ rules set by the government. While ZTE was the main vendor for Airtel in Kolkata (from where it launched its first 4G services) and Huawei was the rider in Punjab and Karnataka for Airtel.
Airtel said it had a long-standing relationship for connectivity with Ericsson and Nokia, while the partnership with Samsung will begin this year. The 5G partnerships follow close on the heels of spectrum auctions conducted by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), where Airtel bid for and acquired 19,867.8 MHZ spectrum in 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 3,300 MHz and 26 GHz frequencies.
“Airtel will commence the rollout of 5G services in August. 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,” said Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Airtel.
India’s transition into a digital economy will be led by telecom, and 5G presents a game-changing opportunity to drive the digital transformation of industries, enterprises and the socio-economic development of India, he said, adding that the choice of multiple partners will enable Airtel launch 5G services spanning ultra-high-speeds, low latency and large data handling capabilities.
“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,” said Pekka Lundmark, President and CEO of Nokia.
Speaking about the agreement, Börje Ekholm, President and CEO, Ericsson, said with Ericsson’s global 5G deployment experience, it 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.
“As a global leader in 5G, Samsung is excited to embark on this 5G journey with Airtel to deliver innovative solutions that will help advance India’s entrepreneurial spirit and open up a new paradigm for the country,” said Paul (Kyungwhoon) Cheun, President and Head of Networks Business at Samsung Electronics.
Over the past year, Airtel has led the industry and spearheaded 5G technology in India, testing several use cases with multiple partners at many locations. From demonstrating India’s first 5G experience over a live 4G network in Hyderabad to India’s first rural 5G trial to the first cloud gaming experience on 5G to the successful deployment of India’s first captive private network on the trial spectrum, Airtel has created and nurtured a vibrant ecosystem of partners and start-ups to support faster adoption of next-generation technologies.