Ericsson wins two more network deals from Airtel in India

Ericsson Bharti Airtel
Image credit | Maugli-l/

Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson has won a fresh radio network contract from India’s Bharti Airtel, which is currently in the process of modernising and expanding its telecom network to prepare for 5G technology. 

The multi-year network contract is for eight telecom circles out of the country’s 22 circles. Ericsson was previously providing 4G gear in six circles, and it has now won two more circles – Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, where it swapped out Chinese gear vendor Huawei.

Under the deal, Ericsson said that it will deploy 5G-ready radio and transport solutions to the Sunil Mittal led telecom operator, which has around 280 million subscribers in India.

Ericsson, in July, already secured an extension from Airtel for its pan-India managed services contract. 

Ericsson on Wednesday separately said that it bagged a new 4G contract from Airtel Africa for Kenya.

“At Airtel, we are obsessed with delivering the best network experience to our customers, especially in these unprecedented times when digital connectivity is more important than ever. We are delighted to deepen our partnership with Ericsson as part of our endeavour to build a network ready for 5G and beyond,” Randeep Sekhon, chief technology officer, Bharti Airtel, said in the statement.

The Swedish company said that the deployment of its latest radio products and solutions will enhance Bharti Airtel’s network capacity and deliver a superior experience to its customers. The telco is also deploying products to increase its network’s backhaul capacities.

“We appreciate the trust Airtel has shown in us by making their network 5G-ready and expanding our footprint in their network. The products manufactured in India will continue to benefit Indian users by enhancing Airtel’s network capacity and enabling it to cater to the country’s fast-growing data traffic needs,” Nunzio Mirtillo, Head of Ericsson South East Asia, Oceania and India, said.

Bharti Airtel already extended a similar deal with Finnish telecom gear vendor Nokia. Under the renewed deal, which is valued at $1 billion, Nokia will deploy around 300,000 radio units for Bharti Airtel by 2022 to significantly expand its 4G network in nine telecom circles. 

Nokia and Ericsson together power Airtel’s 4G network in 17 circles, while ZTE and Huawei provide their equipment in three and two circles, respectively. 

Both European vendors have already told Airtel that they will only provide locally manufactured 5G equipment to the telco once it is able to commercially provide high-speed internet services.

As per reports, Airtel will only work with US and European telecom vendors for its network in the country, having recently awarded a wireline network deal to Ciena instead of Huawei. It is also in talks with vendors like Cisco and Nokia to upgrade its non-wireless areas of network.

India remains the region with the highest usage per smartphone per month. Total traffic is projected to triple, reaching 21EB per month in 2025, as per a recent report by Ericsson.

In India, 4G  was the dominant technology, accounting for 49 percent of mobile subscriptions in 2019. 4G will continue to be dominant, representing 64 percent of mobile subscriptions in 2025, Ericsson said, adding that 4G subscriptions in India will increase from 550 million in 2019 to 820 million in 2025, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent.

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