India's largest cellphone operator Bharti Airtel Friday said global technology major IBM will supply the computing technology and services for its telecom network across 16 nations in sub-Saharan Africa.
The two companies, whose partnership began in 2004, will finalise an agreement to this effect in the fourth quarter, the company said in a regulatory filing.
The deal will enable Bharti Airtel to provide innovative and affordable second and third generation mobile services across the continent.
"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," said Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and managing director, Bharti Airtel.
Under the 10-year agreement, IBM will consolidate 16 different IT systems across Bharti Airtel's African operations into an integrated one and will oversee the management of all of the applications, data centre operations, servers, storage and desktop services.
"We are delighted to extend our successful relationship with IBM in South Asia to Africa. This transformational business delivery model, which will be a first in Africa's telecom industry, will bring enhanced efficiencies to our operations and help us deliver world-class mobile services to our customers," added Mittal.
According to a Deloitte report commissioned by the mobile communications industry association GSMA, only 40 out of every 100 Africans have a mobile phone. However, demand is growing at an average rate of 25 percent annually, and a 10 percent rise in mobile penetration could increase gross domestic product by 1.2 per cent in developing markets.
The partnership will enable the telecom operator to scale up its network and systems to cater to more than 100 million African customers by 2012.
Once the agreement is completed, IBM will handle customer service for Bharti and provide the hardware, software and services to run everything from billing and call-traffic management to delivering new services like music and video.
Bharti Airtel a few months ago acquired most of the African assets of Kuwait’s mobile telecom company Zain.