IBM secures telco cloud role at Bharti Airtel

  • Bharti Airtel is building out its distributed cloud platform
  • Long-time partner IBM is key to the rollout
  • Airtel sees the platform as key to meeting the needs of enterprise customers
  • India’s largest car-maker is already lined up to make use of the potential edge services

IBM is playing a major role in helping giant Indian operator Bharti Airtel build out its distributed edge computing platform at 120 sites across 20 cities, a move that will not only support the operator’s 5G service launch but also equip it to offer an expanded suite of enterprise services. 

The edge solution will be based on IBM Cloud Satellite, an extension of IBM’s Public Cloud platform that can run on any centralised or distributed cloud platform (including on a customer’s own IT stack), and Red Hat’s OpenShift container orchestration solution. (Red Hat has, of course, been part of the IBM empire since 2019.)

“As India gears up to experience 5G, we see a massive opportunity to help businesses across industries transform how they deliver goods and services,” noted Ganesh Lakshminarayanan, CEO of the enterprise unit at Airtel Business. “We have the largest network of edge datacentres available in India under the Nxtra brand and we will leverage our work with IBM to help Indian businesses address their critical business needs with greater efficiency, making it significantly easier for companies to process workloads where their data resides,” he added. 

As part of the ongoing relationship, the IBM and Airtel Digital engineering teams plan to “build use cases that leverage Airtel's 5G connectivity and IBM's hybrid cloud capabilities to address the pressing business issues faced by enterprise clients.

Harnessing Airtel's 5G connectivity and highly secured edge computing capabilities from IBM can enable enterprises to deploy and manage workloads in near-real time. Industries, including telecommunications, financial services, healthcare and government, can benefit from reduced latency, high availability and increased connectivity speeds,” the partners noted in their joint announcement about the development.

And there is demand from India’s enterprise community. According to the partners, the country’s largest car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki, “intends to use the edge platform to increase accuracy and efficiency for quality inspections on the factory floor. By deploying this platform, Maruti Suzuki expects to boost quality control and ensure their data remains protected at the edge.” 

Rajesh Uppal, senior executive director of human resources and IT at the car-maker, noted: “At Maruti Suzuki, we continuously strive to meet the highest quality standards by ensuring our processes and quality control are well above industry standards. Technology is a key enabler in this journey, helping boost quality, efficiency and deliver the next-gen user experience. We are excited to work with Airtel Business and IBM to set an even higher benchmark and explore the vast possibilities of deploying AI and analytics at the edge to augment the expertise of our workforce."


IBM’s role in Airtel’s telco cloud plans has been brewing for some time: The two companies announced a telco cloud rollout collaboration in May 2020.  

Airtel is set to launch its initial 5G services in major cities across India next month, and will be deploying technology from content delivery network specialist Qwilt at the edge of its network to meet the streaming video needs of its 5G customers. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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