Airtel will continue to improve digital offerings and solutions with a $1 billion investment from Google

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The last few years have seen telecom giant – Airtel – make several strides in the communication space to improve its offerings and increase digitization in India. Now, the company is set to receive a massive boost with a $1 billion investment from Google, in a new long-term partnership deal. The two companies look to cooperate on 5G use cases specific to India, along with delivering enterprise services for businesses. The development comes as Airtel prepares for 5G auctions slated for mid-2022 and subsequent network rollouts.

Together, Airtel and Google, plan to collaborate on developing India-specific network domain use cases for 5G. The two companies will also focus on growing the cloud ecosystem in India in a bid to accelerate digital adoption of enterprises, especially small and medium ones.

What the Airtel-Google partnership will entail

Google will invest $700 million from its $10 billion ‘Google for India Digitization Fund’ to buy a 1.28% stake in Airtel through a preferential issue of shares at Rs 734 a unit, the companies announced in a statement. Meanwhile, over the next five years, another $300 million will be allocated towards multiple commercial agreements, such as Airtel’s plans to make smartphones more affordable to empower the current 350 million feature-phone users to upgrade their devices. The two companies will explore options across a range of price points, in partnership with multiple device manufacturers, they said, as they explore ways to get more of India’s 1.3 billion people online.

Airtel and Google share the vision to grow India’s digital dividend through innovative products,” Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said in the statement. “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.” Airtel will continue to work across multiple players in all areas, “whether it’s devices, ecommerce players, device manufacturers, similarly on the cloud.”

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Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said that the two companies are “proud to partner on a shared vision for expanding connectivity and ensuring equitable access to the internet for more Indians.” He added that the investment is a continuation of the US-based company’s efforts to increase access to smartphones and support companies in their digital transformation.

Airtel paving the digital way forward

This is just another step toward Airtel establishing itself as a pioneer of 5G technology in India, which is set to revolutionise how we live, work, connect and play, whether it is accessing healthcare remotely, self-driving cars, entertainment, or online gaming.

Airtel took the lead by becoming the first telecom company in India to test 5G technology way back in 2018. A few months ago, the telecom brand partnered with Nokia and Ericsson to conduct 5G trials in multiple cities across India. A live Airtel 5G test network also made possible India’s first Cloud Gaming demonstration, a first-of-its-kind event conducted in Manesar, Gurgaon where pro-gamers Mamba and Mortal experienced “high-end PC and console-quality gaming” on regular smartphones. The telecom giant also conducted another successful live demonstration in Hyderabad last year, where it tested 5G services over a 4G network, with users experiencing 10x speeds, 10x latency improvement, and 100x concurrency compared to 4G.

Airtel is undoubtedly the backbone of digital India and this agreement with Google is another positive development for digital natives of the country.





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