Bharti Airtel is leaving no stone unturned to protect its turf in the Indian market, even as competitors like Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio make foray into the fast developing 4G space, and make investments to expand their respective network reach.
In a bid to stay ahead, the country’s largest telecom operator by subscribers, recently launched its biggest ever network expansion program, Project Leap, which will see a nationwide investment of Rs 60,000 crores over the next three years. The project is aimed at perceptibly improving its network quality and delivering the best customer experience.
Here are the new technologies and solutions that will play a crucial role, and help Airtel to make the network competition proof:
Airtel, which is largely offering 4G services using the 2300 MHz band, is increasingly deploying indoor solutions to improve coverage and tackle pertinent issues like call drops. Over a period of three years, Airtel will deploy over 1, 00,000 solutions, which includes small cells, pico cells, Wifi access points, Distributed antenna system (DAS), and leaky cables.
Both 3G and 4G services are being offered using high frequency bands, which have indoor penetration challenge, thereby the telco is deploying both 3G and 4G small cells to help augment indoor data usage, which already skyrocketing indoors on both the technologies in the county.
Geo spatial Network Tool
Airtel is leveraging this tool for targeted network planning, and to increase both capacity and coverage in metro areas. The technology is being used to identify customer experience and analytics in micro areas to find out if a particular area needs new base station or a small cell for coverage and capacity needs. The tool allows Airtel to find black spots, and gives it the capability to install small cell to fill that instead of optimizing the whole network to improve the experience, thus helping it reduce capex and opex
In order to reduce network congestion, the company is majorly banking on Wi-Fi offloading technology. It is deploying Wi-Fi access points that work via the Airtel hangout hotspot, which offers seamless connectivity with one time authentication. Wi-Fi offloading has been introduced in urban areas. Airtel however plans to expand it across all the circles.
Airtel is also banking big on SON (Self-organizing Network) technology to make intelligent networks to offer seamless services using multiple technologies with multiple frequency bands in real-time. Airtel is the first Indian telco to deploy SON technology in the country. It has deployed the technology in metro circles, and it will expand in other circles accordingly.
Airtel is also ramping up its network by adding more base stations. It is deploying 70,000 base stations powered by with single RAN solutions in FY 15-16. In three years, it will deploy over 160,000 base stations. These single RAN solutions support all the technologies, be it 2G, 3G or 4G, and all the bands, making the network future ready.
Airtel is looking at hosting regular Appathons to make the network more suitable for smartphones. It did once such appathon earlier this year, wherein it called various app based service providers to optimize their applications to enhance end-customer experience. The program not only help the telco to lessen the amount of load the application puts on the network, but all bring various improvements at the customer end, including battery life enhancement, less data consumption etc.
Going ahead, Airtel plans to introduce newer network technologies like Voice of LTE (VoLTE) and Carrier Aggregation (CA) to better serve the customers. Airtel is currently testing both VoLTE and CA in labs.