Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest telecom service provider by subscribers, is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to maintain its lead in the 4G space, and to better compete with rivals like Reliance Jio, Vodafone and Idea Cellular when they launch their respective commercial high-speed services. Airtel is looking at investing an additional $200-400 million in the current financial year to ramp up 3G and 4G infrastructure, Gopal Vittal, Bharti Airtel’s Managing Director and CEO (India and South Asia) said during an investor call.
The Sunil Bharti Mittal-led company had estimated its capex for India and South Asia to be at $2.3 billion, most of which would have been on India. Airtel has already taken a lead in the 4G space by launching services across over 300 cities, and is expanding further ahead of the commercial launch of Reliance Jio, which is expected to happen in the first quarter of next financial year.
Through 3G and 4G network expansion, Airtel is not just looking at tapping a larger data customer base but to also free 2G network in cities like Delhi to improve overall call quality. Indian telecom operators have been facing criticism due to rising call drops. Airtel is also working with the government to address the issue of call drops. It is currently fixing the network infrastructure by deploying new cell towers, improving the existing errant cell sites, Vittal said.
The country’s second and third largest telcos-Vodafone India and Idea Cellular—are also preparing to start commercial 4G services starting December this year. Aircel, on the other hand, plans to offer mass market 4G services in circles where it has licenses around the same time.