In 2020, then-Facebook invested US$5.7 billion in Bharti Airtel's rival Jio
Google plans to invest up to US$1 billion in mobile operator Bharti Airtel, Singtel’s associate in India.
As part of the investment, Google is taking up US$700 million worth of shares at INR734 ($13.23).
Another US$300 million will be investments in the form of low-cost consumer devices and service offerings.
India’s growing digital ecosystem has attracted other deep-pocketed names. Back in June 2020, then Facebook Inc – recently renamed Meta – invested some US$5.7 billion into Jio, a rival mobile operator backed by Reliance Industries.
The partnership between Meta and Reliance Jio has seen Meta’s WhatsApp that functions not just as a messaging platform, but also as a prepaid payments platform in India, open up new opportunities for people and businesses across the nation.
As part of the Google and Bharti partnership, low-cost handsets, running on Google’s Android operating system, will be made available.
The partners also want to jointly build India-specific network domain use cases for 5G and other standards, with cutting-edge implementations for both consumers and small business users alike.
Airtel is already using Google’s 5G-ready evolved packet core and software-defined network platforms. There are plans to further expand the deployment over Bharti’s networks.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Airtel says the two companies share a vision to grow India’s digital dividend through innovative products.
“With our future-ready network, digital platforms, last mile distribution and payments ecosystem, we look forward to working closely with Google to increase the depth and breadth of India’s digital ecosystem.”
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and parent company Alphabet, calls Airtel a leading pioneer shaping India’s digital future.
“Our commercial and equity investment in Airtel is a continuation of our Google for India Digitization Fund's efforts to increase access to smartphones, enhance connectivity to support new business models, and help companies on their digital transformation journey,” he adds.
Late last year, India’s mobile market enjoyed a reprieve of sort after the Indian government agreed to defer demands for owed revenue. The operators also have the right to use their airwave for a longer period of time, and last but not least, a truce on a brutal price has been called.