Taking another step forward, Telecom service provider Bharti Airtel on Friday strengthened its six-year relationship with IBM by assigning the global IT major to manage its computing and mobile network across 16 African countries. The 10-year deal, according to industry sources, is estimated to be worth $1-1.5 billion — one of the largest outsourcing deals signed by Bharti.
Bharti is not IBM’s only Indian telecom partner. It tied up with Vodafone-Essar in 2007 in a deal worth $1.2 billion. The US major has also signed an outsourcing contract with Idea Cellular for $800 million. Bharti has already kicked off a tariff war in Kenya to take on rival Safaricom, in which Vodafone has 40 per cent stake and which controls 80 per cent of the local mobile market. To grab marketshare in a country where it is not a dominant player, Bharti has slashed tariffs by 50 per cent. But, according to equity research firm Ovum, which tracks the Kenyan market, Safaricom has countered this by cutting the cost of SMS messages for prepaid customers by as much as 94 per cent. "There are huge opportunities throughout Africa to transform how people communicate and how communities interact. Delivering on that opportunity through affordable mobile communications for everyone is our focus," Mittal said.