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Optical/IP

Rumor: India's Airtel Preps 40G Deal

Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), India's biggest operator, is set to overhaul its national transport infrastructure with the deployment of 40-Gbit/s DWDM equipment, an industry source tells Light Reading. (See India Ends 2009 on a Mobile High.)

The upgrade project, known as "Airtel Express," is still in its initial stages, but the source says five vendors are believed to be bidding for the project: Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA).

The source says Airtel Express is "a new DWDM project with 40 Gbit/s capacity, which is upgradeable to 100 Gbit/s," with ASON (Automatically Switched Optical Network) control plane capabilities. "It is still in the initial stages, and it is difficult to say by when the decision would be taken," says the source, who requested anonymity, and who declined to discuss the value of the project.

The move would benefit Bharti Airtel in a number of ways: It would provide it with the latest optical network management capabilities; give it an upgrade path to 100 Gbit/s; and provide the operator with enough capacity to manage its own transport needs (from its mobile and fixed services businesses), as well as offer wholesale capacity to other mobile operators, most of which are growing very fast and don't necessarily have their own high-speed backbone networks.

Bharti Airtel, currently in the news for its M&A activities, is also believed to be looking at outsourcing the management of its transport infrastructure. (See Major Outsourcing Up for Grabs, Bharti's African Odyssey, and Bharti Buys Stake in Warid.) — Gagandeep Kaur, India Editor, Light Reading

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