Bharti Airtel announces $9 billion Indian network programme

Indian operator Bharti Airtel has announced the launch of Project Leap, a network transformation programme that will cost it Rs 60,000 crore – around $9 billion. It claims it will be the largest infrastructure building programme in the history of India.

The project is aimed at improving network quality in the world’s third largest mobile operator, which operates in 20 countries. The investment will be spread out over three years. The new commitment to infrastructure comes on top of an investment of the same amount, already spent on its active and passive network, spectrum, fibre, submarine cables and systems to date.

In an official statement Airtel described Project Leap as a ten point programme to take a decisive lead in delivering a differentiated customer experience.

Airtel will build 70,000 new base stations between 2015 and 2016 and by March 2016 over 60% of its network will be mobile broadband enabled. In total Airtel claims it will create 160,000 base stations, doubling today’s coverage. Its mobile broadband coverage will reach all towns and over 250,000 villages by March 2016, and in three years Airtel plans to offer mobile broadband to over 500,000 villages in the country.

In an indoor network building exercise it will create small cells, carrier aggregations, wi-fi and use multiple technologies across different spectrum bands to create 100,000 indoor offerings. In a backbone building scheme it will install 550,000 km of domestic and international fibre.

Meanwhile, the operator has also said its existing infrastructure will get an upgrade as a ‘massive modernisation of existing networks’ is planned, with legacy networks and base stations being swapped out for new smaller more efficient kit over a three year period. All modern base stations will use a single radio access network to manage multiple spectrum bands.

Airtel will modernize its 3 million user home broadband network by upgrading its Copper assets with Vectoring Technology that’ll boost throughput from 16Mbps to 50Mbps by 2016. It will also run fibre to the home at up to 100Mbps speeds. In Airtel’s service operations centre it will invest in new self optimising networks, geospatial network tools and customer experience management systems.

Airtel said it will reduce its carbon footprint by 70% in three years by using more power efficient radio technologies and base stations that reduce its diesel dependency.

“Project Leap will build a smart and dynamic network that will significantly improve the quality of both voice and data services across the length and breadth of the country,” said Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal.

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