Airtel launch plans in Sri Lanka delayed

December 21st, 2008 - 12:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Dec 21 (IANS) The launch plans of the Sri Lankan arm of leading Indian mobile operator, Bharti Airtel Lanka (Airtel), has reportedly been delayed as the Indian parent company “has still not granted sanction to start operations”.Airtel, rated one of the best performing companies in the world, was awarded last year the licence to provide 2G and 3G mobile services in Sri Lanka. The company announced early this year its commitment to investing approximately $200 million in setting up and expanding its operations in the country over the next five years.

“Airtel was looking at launching somewhere on Dec 23, and they said that this is a tentative date as the company still has not got approval from their head office in India for the launch date,” the Sunday Times newspaper quoted a senior telecom industry official as saying.

Although Airtel officials were not immediately available for comment, the telecom industry official said that the widely-expected mobile service might be launched next year.

Airtel, which is the fifth mobile operator in Sri Lanka, cleared some issues with the existing operators such as Dialog, Mobitel, Tigo and Hutch on the interconnection charges last month.

The media report said that the increasing “cut throat competition” amongst the existing competitors has triggered a price war in the industry and Airtel’s impending launch “has aggravated this situation”.

Although the Sri Lankan market is small, it is crowded and according to latest statistics, of the total population of 20 million, six million have mobile phones.

The fixed line and mobile phone penetration in Sri Lanka is relatively high as no less than 40 percent of the households, other than the war-ravaged north and east, have access to a phone.

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