Bharti Airtel handed out 5G equipment contracts to Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung following the conclusion of India’s spectrum auction earlier this week, with the operator targeting deployment of the technology later this month.

The Indian operator spent a total of $5.4 billion to secure 19,800MHz of spectrum in the 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 3300MHz and 26GHz bands, and is the first in the nation to officially announce its equipment vendors.

Airtel stated its decision to go with multiple vendors would enable it to roll out 5G services with a superior user experience, allowing it to pursue new use cases with enterprise and industry customers.

Ericsson first
Ericsson and Nokia also released their own separate statements announcing the deals, with the Swedish vendor notably stating it had been awarded Airtel’s “first” 5G contract.

The significance of being first remained unclear, though Ericsson added it had now partnered with the operator for 25 years, spanning every mobile generation.

Ericsson explained Airtel would deploy its 5G RAN, radio system and microwave mobile transport products. In total, the vendor will provide connectivity in 12 geographical regions in India.

Rival Nokia’s 5G RAN contract covers an “approximately 45 per cent market share”, providing equipment from its AirScale portfolio, including modular and scalable baseband, as well as massive MIMO radios.

Meanwhile, Airtel stated its deal with Samsung was new and is scheduled to begin this year.

Paul Cheun, head of Samsung’s networks business, noted “5G would have a powerful impact on India’s consumers and businesses”.

Nokia and Ericsson are indeed the front runners to be handed the lion’s share of India’s 5G contracts, after the country’s regulator took steps to prevent Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE from participating in due to security concerns.