India’s Bharti Airtel is reportedly preparing to outsource the management of its recently-acquired African networks to US vendor IBM, Reuters reports. It is understood that the two companies expect to finalise an agreement by the end of the year, with initial indications that the deal will span a ten-year period and cover all 16 African nations where Bharti has operations. The two companies are already in business, with IBM currently managing Bharti’s IT infrastructure in India. In a statement made by the two companies concerning the matter, it was noted: ‘Bharti Airtel plans to replicate the success of its relationship with IBM by lowering the barrier to entry for the people of Africa to own a mobile device,’ with the Indian operator claiming that the partnership would allow it to expand its network footprint to more than 100 million African customers by 2012, up from the 36 million that its combined African subsidiaries currently cover.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in July 2010 Bharti announced it had finalised the acquisition of the African assets of Kuwait-based Zain Group in a deal valued at USD10.7 billion. Under the deal Bharti took over Zain’s operations in 15 countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Prior to the acquisition Bharti already had a presence in Africa via its Seychelles-based Airtel Seychelles.