IBM to upgrade Africa mobile network

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indias top mobile phone firm Bharti Airtel said Friday it had chosen US computer giant IBM to supply information technology services to drive modernisation of its 16 new African networks. Bharti Airtel, the worlds fifth-largest mobile phone company, completed in June the purchase of Kuwaits Zains African cellular operations for 10.7 billion dollars, including the assumption of $1.7b in debt. The move marks the first significant step by Bharti Airtel to replicate its business model in sub-Saharan Africa where it aims to nearly triple subscribers from 36m now to 100 million by 2012-2013. There are huge opportunities throughout Africa to transform how people communicate, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said, announcing the African partnership. The decade-long tie-up with IBM will allow Bharti Airtel to deliver innovative and affordable 2G and 3G mobile services across the (African) continent, company said in a statement.