India’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, Bharti Airtel, has reportedly identified vendors for the rollout of services which will utilise the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum the company won in June 2010. According to India’s Economic Times, the operator is planning to offer contracts for network rollout to vendors on a per-circle basis, with it understood to be considering this strategy with a view to optimising costs and leveraging existing relationships with equipment suppliers. The report claims that the contract for rolling out services in the Calcutta circle may be handed to China’s ZTE, while fellow Chinese vendor Huawei may be called on for network deployment in Karnataka. The two remaining circles where Airtel holds concessions for BWA services – Punjab and Maharashtra – are meanwhile expected to be contracted to European vendors Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) respectively. Citing unnamed executives with knowledge of the deals, the local press source meanwhile claims that each contract is likely to be worth between USD75 million and USD100 million.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Airtel’s four BWA licenses cost it INR33.14 billion (USD712 million), giving it 20MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band in each of the circles where it has a concession. The operator’s plans regarding the technology it will deploy over the frequency band were hinted at in February 2011 when it was announced that Airtel, along with China Mobile, Softbank Mobile, Vodafone, Clearwire, E-Plus and Aero2, had launched the Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI); the move suggests that the telco will favour using its BWA spectrum to inaugurate Long Term Evolution-based (LTE-based) mobile broadband services.