Bharti Airtel crosses 100 million subscriber mark

May 15th, 2009 - 8:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 15 (IANS) Leading telecom operator Bharti Airtel Friday said its mobile phone subscriber base had crossed the 100-million mark, making the company the third largest single country service provider in the world.

“Bharti Airtel has achieved 100-million subscriber mark,” said a beaming Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of the Rs.375-billion company. “This milestone reiterates the emergence of India as the world’s top telecom markets,” he told a press conference here.

He added that the company would roll out 100,000 base stations by the year-end to provide wider and deeper network coverage across the country.

The base stations facilitate wireless communication between a user’s phone and a network.

The company is also planning to transform its entire fixed line network to Internet Protocol or broadband over a phased manner. This transformation will enable Bharti Airtel’s transformation into next generation networks, offering advanced services like high-speed internet, media-rich value-added service (VAS) and many more.

Mittal said that the company was confident of adding another 100 million subscribers in two years.

“Given the run rate of three million additions per month, we should be able to achieve another 100 million in next 2-2.5 years and that too from within India,” he added.

Mittal said there would not any further divestment given the fact that the company has sufficient funds.

“The company does not need any more capital. There is no plan to divest any further stake,” he said.

Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), which holds 30 percent stake in Airtel, echoed the same sentiment.

“Today, we have no plans. We have a substantial stake,” SingTel chairman Chumpol NaLamlieng, who was also present at the press conference, said.

On the allocation of additional spectrum, Mittal said: “We are open to government variation of auctioning spectrum, but then there should be a stable spectrum regime.”

Notably, 60 percent of the company’s subscriber base is in the rural areas, which was once considered unviable because of a perception that both the demand for telecom and revenues may not justify the investments.

Mittal said the company would set up 100,000 Airtel Service Centres in rural areas by March 2010 to speed up the rural penetration.

India boasts of the second-largest telecom user base in the world after China’s and ahead of the US, and now has 429.72 million telecom subscribers, both in the wireless and mobile segments, with a record growth of 59.48 percent last fiscal.

Mittal said at a time when most operators had cut tariffs and offered freebies, Airtel kept its pricing strategy intact, assisting a 23 percent jump in profits at Rs.78.59 billion for the year ended March 31, against Rs.63.9 billion the previous fiscal.

Total income also surged over 37 percent to Rs.375.04 billion from Rs.272.9 billion.

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