Airtel Airing Out Global Wholesale Partners

Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) is talking to Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) , Oman Telecommunications Co. (Omantel) , and PCCW Ltd. (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008) about extending their wholesale services globally, according to an Airtel spokesman. All are customers of Airtel's Indian wholesale service, and the discussions follow the launch of a global wholesale service portfolio by Airtel. (See Bharti Goes Global With Wholesale.)

The portfolio includes MPLS, Ethernet, IP, and international private leased circuit (IPLC) services, and comes courtesy of a $500 million investment that has resulted in a global network with points of presence in 50 countries across five continents.

The global network includes i2i, which is fully owned by Bharti Airtel, and connects Chennai to Singapore; and SMW4, which Bharti Airtel shares ownership of through a consortium.

The network is completed via connections to standing systems -- APCN2, c2c, JUCN, TGN, TAT14, Apollo, and Hibernia -- as well as through Bharti Airtel's investments in new cable systems, including the Asia America Gateway (AAG), Unity North, EIG (Europe India Gateway), India Middle East and Western Europe, and EASSy. According to Airtel, this means it has at least three cables for every route, enabling it to offer "unmatched resilience."

And the telco does not intend to stop there. The spokesman confirms that Airtel is planning to invest in two more cable networks, but would not confirm their locations.

However, this still leaves it a long way behind fellow Indian telco Tata Communications Ltd. , which owns the Tata Global Network (TGN), comprising TGN Atlantic, TGN Western Europe, TGN Northern Europe, TGN Pacific, and TGN Intra Asia. It is also a partner in the SeMeWe3, SeMeWe4, SAFE/SAT 3, and APCN 2 cable consortiums.

According to Tata Communications, it is the world's largest voice carrier and the ninth-largest transporter of IP traffic, a position it hopes to strengthen through a recent partnership with BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). (See BT, Tata Team Up.)

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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