IBM to Manage SDP for Bharti

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has inked an eight-year deal worth more than $100 million with India's Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) to develop, manage, and operate a service delivery platform (SDP) for the carrier. (See Bharti Selects IBM SDP.)

Bharti’s choice of IBM reiterates the close relationship between the two companies. IBM has been managing Bharti’s network operations since 2004, when it signed a 10-year, $750 million IT services outsourcing deal. In return, Bharti is IBM’s preferred telecom service provider for its operations in India. (See Bharti, IBM Team in India.)

The service delivery platform will host all of Bharti’s content and application services -- bringing together an integrated portal, content management, digital rights management, transcoding systems, messaging gateway, and applications parlay gateway.

The deal forms part of Bharti’s "One Airtel" strategy by creating a single platform for its 24.6 million mobile, fixed-line, and broadband customers -- offering personalization of value-added services, single access point, and single sign-on. Bharti's premium services include broadband games, music, and multimedia messaging (including the wildly popular Indian Idol).

Value-added services are becoming increasingly important in India’s highly fragmented and competitive mobile market, as falling call rates squeeze carrier margins. India has the world’s lowest mobile call rates at 2 cents per minute.

Bharti spokesman Senjam Raj Sekhar declined to reveal how much more than $100 million the agreement is worth, but did say the SDP is expected to be in commercial use in 9 to 12 months -- although some components will go live before that. In addition to working with IBM, the carrier will bring in other partners to help it launch new services. “We will be independently working with a host of content and application partners who will be delivering content and applications on this platform,” Sekhar writes in an email to Light Reading.

Sekhar says the SDP will also support “personalization of services and profiling” for IPTV, which Bharti is in the process of trialing. (See Bharti Watches UTStarcom for IPTV.) Bharti intends to have IPTV services up and running by the end of the year.

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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