Bharti Airtel has entered into an agreement with Nokia to expand the deployment of 4G technology across nine circles in India as the country prepares itself for the next boom in mobile data demand.
Under the agreement, roughly pegged at Rs3,350 crore (about $500 million), Nokia and Bharti Airtel will enhance coverage and access in urban, suburban and rural areas within nine circles in India improving access to news sites, video content, online gaming and social media, fuelling an increase in mobile data usage.
Nokia will deploy its 4G FDD-LTE & TD-LTE technology across nine of Bharti Airtel's circles in India, including the regions of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rest of Bengal, Odisha, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Kerala and UP East, serving major cities such as Lucknow, Ahmendabad, Patna and Siliguri.
Nokia will also expand the operator's 3G network in eight of the territories as part of this rollout and modernization of legacy 2G BTS.
The rollout uses Nokia's radio access with Single RAN technology for FDD-LTE and TD-LTE.
Nokia will provide professional services including network integration and network planning and optimisation.
In the 2016 MBiT Index Nokia reported an eightfold increase in India's 4G LTE device ecosystem for 2015, while other statistics show that access to news, video content, gaming and social media accounts for 60 per cent of India's total mobile data traffic - and it is rising.
With additional spectrum acquired in the latest round of auction, Bharti Airtel plans to expand the deployment of 4G technology in three new circles in addition to six circles it already serves, enabling launch of new services that started in September.
Bharti Airtel will be able to provide improved coverage and faster mobile internet access, while laying the foundation for the delivery of enhanced video services and other on-demand applications.
Bharti Airtel said in a statement: "We are pleased to continue to leverage Nokia's leading radio access technology and services expertise to expand 4G capacity and coverage and further increase the quality of service for subscribers."
"We have a long history of working with Bharti Airtel and with this latest agreement we have become the largest supplier of 4G for the company. This network expansion will provide the capacity, coverage and speeds the company needs to meet the next wave of data demand in India," Sanjay Malik, head of India Market at Nokia, said.