Bharti to invest $425 million next year

By SiliconIndia   |   Tuesday, 23 March 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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BANGALORE: Bharti is gearing up for some explosive growth in the next fiscal. It is investing Rs 2,000 crore in 2004-05 for rolling out its mobile services in six new circles, and expanding its network capacity from six million to 11 million subscribers. Bharti Tele-ventures president (mobility) Manoj Kohli told newspersons here that this would take the company’s total investment till now to Rs 10,000 crore.

The growth plans include Airtel’s expansion to 1,000 new towns of which 300 towns are to be added in the new circles of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh (East), West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Rajasthan. The 21 circles across the country where Airtel will have its footprint will also connect 20,000 new villages by March 2005. The scaled-up network will be capable of handling four billion call minutes in a month against two billion now. The number of cell sites are proposed to be doubled up from 5,000 to around 10,000 while as many as 53 mobile switching centres (MSC) will be functional by the end of the year.

In Karnataka alone, Rs 200 crore of fresh investment will be channelised to expand its services to 85 new towns, taking the total to 235 towns. Bharti director (mobility) & CEO (south-central region) Jagdish Kini said this will include 106 towns with a population of 10,000 to 20,000. Airtel is targeting a subscriber base of 8,00,000 by March 31. It began this fiscal with less than 3,50,000 subscribers, Mr Kini said.

For the customer, the focus on capacity expansion and quality improvement means a near-zero call drop in Bangalore in the near future. Since Bangalore, along with Delhi and Mumbai, is being viewed as a top performer by Bharti, it will be offered a gold-plated network, Mr Kini added. Bharti’s group chief technical officer Don Price explained that the company is aiming at keeping its call failure rate at 1.5%.

Last year, the number of calls which did not materialise was limited to 2%. While the best connectivity in the world cannot ensure zero call drop across the network, there can be areas of excellence, Mr Price added.

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