New Delhi: Sunil Mittal-owned Bharti Airtel has entered the league of the world's top ten telecom operators. On 1 October, the company became the first Indian member of the top 10 club, with its customer base passing the 50 million mark in mobile, broadband and wireline services.
According to Bharti Airtel president and CEO Manoj Kohli, next on the company's agenda is the 100 million mark by 2010.
Using the occasion to lobby for more spectrum space, Bharti Airtel called on the government to set aside more wireless spectrum space to help it achieve its goal of a 100 million customers by 2010. Spectrum is the bandwidth over which wireless communications are delivered.
Adding about 2 million subscribers a month, Bharti Airtel had 46.8 million subscribers as of the end of August, 2007. It had 10 million subscribers as of November 2004, and crossed the 25 million count in July 2006, thereafter doubling its customer base in just 14 months.
The company's joint managing director Akhil Gupta views the bulk of subscribers for the next 50 million customers coming from rural areas. Given the enhanced base, he estimated Average Revenues Per User (ARPUs) to fall, though not drastically, owing to the consequential increase in usage and revenues.
Bharti Airtel's 50 million customers cover mobile, broadband and fixed telephone services, with wireless segment estimated to be adding almost 96 per cent (47.99 million) of the total base. The exact statistics for mobile additions for the month of September 2007 are awaited from the Cellular Operators Association of India, which are likely to be made public in very near future.
To spearhead its rural acquisition plans, the company is planning to facilitate its rural penetration by following a slightly different strategy that could include providing local content in various languages, and simpler tariffs among other things.
Bharti Airtel plans to make sizeable investments in network expansion, to ensure a presence in all towns and over five lakh villages across India by 2010. It plans to cover 95 per cent of the country's population.
Bharti Airtel's Sri Lanka operations are likely to commence by the end of the current financial year in March 2008. The company is also likely to make its foray into the DTH, or direct-to-home services arena in India, around the same time.