Ericsson Snags $2 Billion Bharti Deal

The Swedish telecom equipment supplier will help India's largest telco extend the reach of its GSM network

In a statement issued last Thursday, Manoj Kohli, president and CEO of Bharti Airtel, said the company's decision to expand its network will not only allow Bharti to offer more products and services to its customers, it will also help grow its market share in India. According to Kohli, the company hopes to enlarge its current mobile subscriber base—which number 40.74 million users—by enlisting new customers from the country's rural regions.

"The network will further allow us to offer more innovative products and solutions in the areas of voice and data, such as community-based charging, location-based services and enterprise VPN (virtual private network) services," said Kohli, commenting on the company's future plans to introduce "unique location-based services and application" targeted at the Indian mobile user.

Sweden-based Ericsson has been a strategic partner of Bharti since 1995, and currently manages about 70 percent of Bharti's GSM network, segregated over 15 zones in India.

Under the two-year supply-and-services contract, Ericsson said it will design, plan, deploy, optimize and manage Bharti's GSM network across India's 15 zones, as well as for its pan-India pre-paid platform, which covers 23 zones within the country.

Ericsson added that it will also deliver integrated device management tools that will enable Bharti's mobile customers across retail and enterprise segments to gain access to advanced data services.

In India, about 13 percent of people have cell phones and industry observers expect the country's market penetration to reach 40 percent, or 500 million subscribers, within a few years.

According to a panel discussion at this year's 3GSM World Congress, India's mobile phone subscriber base was estimated to be growing at a rate of 6 million per month.

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