Airtel to receive a whopping $1Billion from Google
Google will invest up to $1Billion in Bharti Airtel as part of its Google for India Digitization Fund. The partnership comprises a $700 million (Rs. 5,224.4 crores) equity investment in Bharti Airtel at a price per share of Rs. 734. Another $300 million will be used over the next five years on multiple commercial agreements, which will include Airtel’s plans to make smartphones more affordable to empower almost 350 million feature phone users in India. The partnership aims to achieve this through innovative affordability programs that will accelerate digital inclusion across India.
The association fulfils Google’s vision to increase its footprint and pull more people to use the internet, which India, with a population of about 1.3 billion, readily offers. Experts state that this will allow telcos, like Airtel, to drive up 4G data usage and revenue, especially at this crucial point where it is gearing for 5G auctions by mid-2022 and subsequent 5G network rollouts.
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Gearing India up to become digitally savvy
The partnership is a landmark moment in India’s digital future as the two giants join hands to potentially co-create India-specific 5G network use cases with cutting-edge implementations. This will allow for faster deployment of 5G networks and services in the country, which will benefit not just consumers but the two companies as well. The partnership also opens up the scope for the two tech giants to rejig the cloud ecosystem in India. Airtel serves over one million small and medium businesses with its enterprise connectivity offering, and this partnership will help accelerate digital adoption.
Talking about the partnership, Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Airtel, said, “Airtel and Google share the vision to grow India’s digital dividend through innovative products. With our future-ready network, digital platforms, last-mile distribution and payments ecosystem, we look forward to working closely with Google to increase the depth and breadth of India’s digital ecosystem.”
Speaking about the deal, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, added, “Airtel is a leading pioneer shaping India’s digital future, and we are proud to partner on a shared vision for expanding connectivity and ensuring equitable access to the Internet for more Indians.”
Partnership to benefit individuals and businesses
This strategic partnership is set to bolster India’s digital strength by letting both Airtel and Google work alongside various device manufacturers to bring down the barriers to owning a smartphone across different price points. Currently, a massive segment of India’s 1.3 billion population accesses the internet through feature phones. Affordability and lack of adequate use cases have been primary reasons why telcos and device makers have struggled to upgrade them to smartphone users. The recent 20-25% price hike in prepaid tariffs by operators has further slowed down the conversion. Google’s commercial and equity investment in Airtel will go a long way in making smartphones more affordable to more people.
The partnership will also empower businesses to progress on their digital transformation journeys and build a solid digital ecosystem for consumers. By building an open technology ecosystem, the two giants will extend innovative digital services to customers and businesses. As a part of its first commercial agreement, Airtel and Google will work together to build on Airtel’s extensive offerings that cover a range of Android-enabled devices to consumers via innovative affordability programs.
Airtel’s significant efforts in 5G adoption
Over the last five years, Airtel almost single-handedly changed the 5G roadmap in India. After becoming the first telco in the country to test the technology way back in 2018, Airtel conducted several path-breaking experiments in the 5G space in 2021. In an industry first, it conducted a cloud gaming demonstration on live Airtel 5G, in which popular Indian gamers Mortal and Mamba participated. The company also joined hands with Tata Consultancy Services and successfully tested innovative use cases from TCS’ Neural Manufacturing™ solutions suite on Airtel’s ultra-fast and low latency 5G network.
Airtel has also conducted live 5G tests across cities, like Hyderabad and Kolkata, and has collaborated with several tech companies like Intel, Qualcomm, etc., on the 5G front. This association with Google is set to strengthen Airtel’s position as a telecom stalwart in the country and help further its efforts towards 5G adoption.
Disclaimer: This article has been written on behalf of Airtel by Times Internet’s Spotlight team.