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Bharti Airtel stops importing STBs, starts production locally

Airtel Digital TV, a leading DTH service provider and the direct-to-home arm of Bharti Airtel, has stopped imports of the HD Set-Top Boxes (STBs) from other Asian countries completely. The company has started the local manufacturing of the devices at a facility in Noida in partnership with Skyworth Electronics. Well, Airtel Digital TV has plans to bring about a complete transition to the Made-in-India STBs that includes the high-end Airtel Xstream 4K Android TV Box by this year’s end. Notably, the Airtel Xstream 4K TV Box lets users access both OTT and linear TV content.

Homegrown manufacturing of devices
Already, Airtel has started providing devices that are manufactured locally to its customers. The latest move is in line with the strategy of the company to locally source all networking and telecom equipment and STB devices. Previously, Airtel manufactured its non-smart STBs in Rangangaon, Pune via MyBox Tech, which is a Hero Electronix subsidiary and ST Microelectronics. The telco halted the production of these devices in India and opted to import these from Thailand and Vietnam in order to leverage FTA (Free Trade Agreement) duty benefits.

Now, the electronics manufacturing ecosystem in India has built capabilities locally, thereby letting companies have better control over the quality of their products. This has made Airtel move back to manufacturing its devices locally in the country.

Regarding this development, Sunil Taldar, CEO-DTH, Bharti Airtel, told ET Telecom that they are pleased with the level of product quality that their partners have delivered. Furthermore, he added that this is a big leap in the growth of Airtel Digital TV’s journey. Also, it is a sign of the country’s rapidly growing manufacturing capabilities. Notably, the COVID-19 scenario has created a delay due to supply chain disruptions that have accelerated the company’s efforts to manufacture products within the country to make its supply chain more reliant on India.

Local manufacturing partners
Recently, Bharti Enterprises Ltd signed a pact with homegrown contract manufacturer Dixon to form a joint venture for the local manufacturing of networking and telecom gear such as routers, modems, and Set-Top Boxes, among others. Dixon filed necessary applications with the Ministry of Communications to get the benefits under the Rs 12,195 crore PLI scheme introduced by the government.

Besides Dixon, Airtel claims that Ericsson and Nokia, its partners provide only locally produced 4G and 5G equipment. Currently, the telco is working with TCS for 5G. The early trials of the locally developed 5G stack will be trialled early in 2022, along with locally made equipment. TelecomTalk

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