Bharti Airtel has partnered with Facebook parent Meta to develop undersea cable infrastructure which will support high-speed internet in the country and boost data-carrying capacities between geographies. The two companies, along with Saudi Telecommunication Company, will bring the world’s longest subsea cable system 2Africa Pearls to India, at Airtel’s landing station in Mumbai.
Subsea cable infrastructure is essential to connect the world digitally as without this, data flows between countries over the internet will not be possible.
In 2020, Meta (then called Facebook) had announced investments in building internet infrastructure in Africa through the 2Africa subsea cable. The cable system was later extended to connect 33 countries across Africa, Europe, and Asia, under 2Africa Pearls.
“The 2Africa cable will significantly boost India’s cable capacity and empower global hyper-scalers (that operate data centres) and businesses to build new integrated solutions and provide a high-quality seamless experience to customers,” Airtel said in a release.
In February, Airtel had joined the SEA-ME-WE-6 undersea cable consortium that will connect Singapore and France. The company will invest 20% of the overall investment in the cable system, which will go live in 2025. The telecom operator has acquired one fiber pair on the main SEA-ME-WE-6 system and will co-build four fiber pairs between Singapore, Chennai and Mumbai.
Reliance Jio has also been expanding its foothold in the subsea cable infrastructure, investing in a multi-terabit India-Asia-Xpress undersea cable system connecting Mumbai to Singapore, with landing stations in India, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Airtel and Meta have also collaborated on Open RAN (radio access network) technologies. The company is conducting trials for 4G and 5G Open RAN solutions on select sites in Haryana and will start deploying the solutions commercially over the next few quarters.
Open RAN solutions involve using components such as switches, antennas and computer boards to set up a network rather than going with solutions from a single traditional vendor. The core of such a network is open-source software.
“Subsea cables and open, disaggregated networks continue to play a huge role in the foundational infrastructure needed to support network capacity and fuel innovation,” said Francisco Varela, vice president of mobile partnerships at Meta.
As part of the partnership, Airtel will also integrate WhatsApp within its CPaaS (communication platform as a service) platform, to enable businesses to use WhatsApp’s features.