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Airtel invests $100m on network

Further $ 100 m to expand operations:

Sunil Bharti Mittal

Group Chief Executive officer Singtel Singapore, Chua Sock Koong presents an Airtel connection to Chairman / Managing Director, Hatton National Bank, Rienzie Wijetilike. Picture by Saliya Rupasinghe

Bharti Airtel Lanka Limited has invested US $ 100 million to launch its network in Sri Lanka. The company will infuse a further US $ 100 million to expand operations. Chairman and Managing Director, Airtel, Sunil Bharti Mittal, told the launch at the Colombo Hilton that they would also use Sri Lanka, to launch their 3G services in this part of the region.

Sri Lanka’s mobile penetration is at 50 per cent and the Indian Company, which is the third largest mobile operator in the world in terms of serving the population, sees great potential in Sri Lanka.

He said that Sri Lankan expatriate workers remit around Rs. 1 billion annually to Sri Lanka. “These are channelled through banks and we will soon introduce a facility to provide this service to Sri Lanka via Airtel,” he said. Airtel will launch this facility in India by the end of this month.

He said that when one per cent on the mobile penetration increases it has a major positive impact on the economy. Mittal said that with the announcement that Airtel would be launching operations in Sri Lanka there had been a sharp decline in tariffs by other mobile operators. “This is nothing new for us as we have already created a storm. The low tariffs will also contribute to economic prosperity,” he said.

He, however, noted that mobile tariffs in Sri Lanka are high in the region. The average call charge is around Rs. 5 in Sri Lanka and in India its half the price. Due to this, the average talk time in Sri Lanka is around 120 minutes as against 460 minutes in India. “Our aim in Sri Lanka is to offer the lowest call charges which would be as low as Re, 1,” he said.

Mittal, also stressed that customers in Sri Lanka are confused by several packages that are on offer. “We have also simplified this,” he said.

“We will be initially covering 60 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population and thereafter cover the entire island soon,” he said. In India, Airtel adds three million customers and 100 base stations every month.

The new CEO, Amali Nanakyakkara said that Airtel would be bringing many ‘firsts’ to Sri Lanka which include totally incoming free from any network. “In addition Airtel roaming tariffs would be 50 per cent cheaper than other operators,” she said.

Airtel would also bring new technology in Value Added Services (VAS) and also for entertainment and music. “These would be first for Sri Lanka as well,” she said.

Group Chief Executive officer Singtel Singapore, Chua Sock Koong that would be partnering Airtel, said that their international experience too would be an advantage for local Airtel customers. Customers would be able to have 200 roaming countries when they switch to Airtel.


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