Bharti Airtel, the country’s leading telecom operator, has awarded a big-ticket 4G deployment and expansion contract worth around $500 million to Finnish telecom gear vendor Nokia. By giving this contract, Bharti Airtel is expediting its network expansion and ramping up capacities to counter the looming threat from Reliance Jio, which is currently offering free services in the country, industry watchers say.

Nokia and Bharti Airtel didn't share the value of the contract. However, a person familiar with the development said that the contract value hovers around $500 million.

The new agreement with Nokia will see Airtel expand the deployment of 4G technology in three new circles in addition to six circles it already serves.

Nokia will deploy its 4G FDD-LTE and TD-LTE technology across nine of the telco’s circles in India including the regions of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rest of Bengal, Odisha, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Kerala and UP East, serving major cities such as Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Patna and Siliguri.

Analysys Mason’s head for India and South Asia, Rohan Dhamija said that the contract is reflective of the trends and technology advancements in data market. On demand side, consumer are going to use more data, while on the supply side, standards are getting evolved.

“Given the expected data boom, and carrier aggregation across FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE, this expansion becomes relevant for Bharti Airtel,” Dhamija added. .

The new deployment will allow Bharti Airtel to provide improved coverage and faster mobile Internet access, while laying the foundation for the delivery of enhanced video services and other on-demand applications.

"We are pleased to continue to leverage Nokia's leading radio access technology and services expertise to expand 4G capacity and coverage and further increase the quality of service for subscribers,” Bharti Airtel said in a statement.