Bharti Airtel secured backing from Google for up to $1 billion covering plans to introduce more affordable access and services to boost digital inclusion in India.
The funding is part of a programme dubbed Google for India Digitisation Fund, and involves a $700 million equity investment in Airtel and up to $300 million for implementing various commercial agreements aimed at increasing access and digital inclusion.
Airtel stated the pair will identify potential deals over the next five years, with a focus on Android-enabled devices and affordable plans designed to cut smartphone ownership costs.
Sunil Mittal, Airtel’s chair, explained a joint vision to “grow India’s digital dividend through innovative products” making use of its network, digital platforms and payment services.
Google and Alphabet chief Sundar Pichai added the investment continues the company’s efforts to increase access to smartphones, enhance connectivity and aid companies in digital transformation.
Airtel and Google will also develop India-specific network domain use cases for 5G and other standards.
The operator reported it uses a 5G-ready evolved packet core and software defined network platforms from Google, and plans to explore expanding the deployment of the search-giant’s network virtualisation service.
Investments are subject to standard regulatory approvals.