The giant operator is looking to leverage economies of scale across its territories as well as supporting international roaming and services. It worked with Ericsson on the transformation program, which involved upgrades to network elements including switching, RAN, network management, packet data platforms, charging systems and customer services.
The idea is to boost capacity with more efficient platforms, and so allow Bharti to be more competitive in its service charges. A key motive to acquire most of Zain's sub-Saharan Africa assets was to achieve greater scale and target markets with future growth potential, which could eventually deliver higher ARPUs than margin-squeezed India. The upgrade process is also geared to making the networks ready for next generation services.
Among the elements was the new version of Ericsson's Charging System, enabling Airtel to offer its 60 million-plus subscribers new services such as mobile wallets.
Eben Albertyn, CTO of Airtel Africa, said in a statement: “Customer is at the core of everything we do at Airtel. The implementation of this transformation program will enable us to further enrich our customer experience across the region. It allows us to provide Airtel subscribers with the best network possible while meeting the growing usage of mobile data.”
This project is the biggest result so far of a five-year, multi-country managed services agreement between the two companies, announced in 2011. This provides for Ericsson to manage and optimize Airtel's mobile networks across Africa.
Bharti Airtel recently expanded the “One Network” roaming service it inherited across Africa when it bought the Zain networks, to include India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The service ofers free incoming calls when roaming between the networks.
The countries covered are Kenya, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Mada-gascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.