Aug 13, 2008

Business - Airtel on its way to become India's largest Telco

The country’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel is set to become the country’s largest telecom operator (both fixed line and mobile), beating the state-owned BSNL in a month’s time.

BSNL, which is today the largest telecom operator, has a total subscriber base of 73 million in June compared to Bharti’s 71.7 million. Given the average growth of the previous months, Bharti should be well ahead of BSNL by a margin of one million subscribers within a month’s time.

While Bharti is adding well over 2.5 million customers each month for the last two months, BSNL’s subscriber base is growing by merely 6,00,000 each month. The landline connections, which are seeing a positive growth for Bharti, constitute just a minuscule 3% of its subscribers. For BSNL the landline subscribers constitute slightly less than half.

Bharti Airtel, which has a mobile subscriber base of over 69 million in June, is growing at an average of 3% while BSNL, which has a mobile subscriber base of over 37 million is growing at less than 1%, adding around 3 lakh subscribers each month.

The state-run company is also experiencing a decline in its fixed line growth. Its landline subscribers declined by 160,000 in June contrary to Bharti Airtel.

BSNL, which was the country’s second largest GSM service provider, before Vodafone became the No 2 GSM service provider, slipped to the third position owing to delays in its capacity expansion arising out of the delay in tenders and equipment orders.

BSNLis expanding the capacity of its mobile network—the company has ordered the equipment required for expansion. The company has ordered 5 million lines each for north and east, while an additional 5.5 million for south and 9 million lines for the western zone. With this it is hoping to have an extra capacity of as many as 24.5 million lines.

In an interview to FE earlier, chairman Kuldeep Goyal said that CDMA is another important area of expansion for the company, which is in the process of ordering equipments in CDMA.

Currently, the company has 4.6 million customers in CDMA and is hoping to add another 3 million customers. It is ordering equipments to add another 2 million lines.

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