Bharti Airtel is doubling down on efforts to expand its rural coverage to better compete with its bigger 4G rival Reliance Jio Infocomm, and to increase network capacity to address the growing demand for broadband amidst the sharp rise in data consumption across India due to the ongoing lockdown.
Besides expanding its rural coverage, Airtel is increasing 4G network capacity in urban areas as well as to preparing networks for 5G.
The Sunil Mittal-led telecom operator has already awarded a new contract to Ceragon for new 4G network expansion which has already begun. The vendor is deploying the all-outdoor multicore solution and related services that offer flexibility for faster network deployment.
“Ceragon is working closely with Airtel to pursue rapid deployment of its microwave radios, as best it can, considering India’s recent temporary lockdown,” the telco said in a statement.
Randeep Sekhon, Chief Technology Officer of Airtel said that Ceragon’s wireless hauling solutions and services allow the telco to quickly adapt to customers’ changing needs and deliver higher speeds with reliable, first-time-right rollouts.
Ira Palti, president and CEO of Ceragon said that it was committed to supporting Airtel during these challenging times, and will continue to implement its long-term network development plan to gain market-share across India.
Sekhon recently revealed that rural and suburban areas are now seeing more traffic on Airtel’s network compared to urban areas, especially after the imposition of nationwide lockdown, which triggered a mass migration of the population from urban to rural areas.
Reports estimate that Airtel’s network in rural areas is about 15% smaller than Reliance Jio’s network. Analysts reckon that the rural market will drive growth for all telecom operators in India, even as urban areas continue to show strong growth.
As per media reports, Airtel was planning to deploy around 26,000 new 4G sites across India to enhance coverage, especially in rural areas over a period of 18-24 months. However, the telco is now deploying new sites at a much faster rate.
Not just Ceragon, Airtel is working with all existing partners like Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and ZTE across India to expand network coverage and capacity.
Sekhon had also revealed that Airtel’s rural strategy was already in place which resulted in sufficient rural capacity.
Airtel has also shut down its 3G network, which it said resulted in more capacity available to handle traffic demand. It has redeployed spectrum which was being used for 3G service for 4G service now.