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Bharti links up with China Mobile for 4G development

Joint sourcing of network equipment and handsets being considered

Bharti Airtel signed a mega deal with China Mobile on March 4th, for strengthening its 4G eco-system as well as network and device procurement. The deal, however, stopped short of an equity participation by the Chinese mobile major - though Bharti chairman Sunil Mittal said the last word on the partnership is yet to be written.

"We work very closely with them. Overall we discuss a lot of things," Mittal said. "Will this evolve into something more significant, only time will tell." Asked whether China Mobile may partner Bharti for its Indian operations, he said, "There are no discussions on that and it is only a strategic partnership and not an equity partnership. China Mobile is trying to understand India. They don't have much experience about India."

Market analysts said the Airtel-China Mobile partnership is very significant and will provide the support to the Indian operator to match the financial muscle of Ambani's Reliance Jio. Airtel has started 4G operations in certain pockets of the country and uses 2,300 MHz frequency for this, something where it will gain from China Mobile's experience. Also, joint sourcing for network equipment and handsets will mean that the two companies can get lucrative prices from vendors, including having an aim of procuring 4G handsets at $100.

The two companies said their collaboration will work towards growth of the LTE (4G) ecosystem and evolving mobile technology. They will also work towards shaping up a joint strategy for procurement of devices that include Mifi, smart phones and data cards.

Mittal signed the MoU with Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile. "With both China and India on the cusp of large scale roll-out of high speed 4G data services, China Mobile and Airtel plan to share relevant network as well as product knowledge (specifically for new technologies like 4G), best practices and technical learnings to enable delivery of world-class affordable services to customers. Airtel and China Mobile will also work together for development of relevant technical standards and inter-operability testing," the companies said.

Adapted from Economic Times story

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