Bharti Tele-Ventures, with its AirTel brand has completed one year of its existence in Mumbai. Atul Jhamb, COO, AirTel Mumbai, speaks about the achievements during the year and the road ahead.
AirTel has recently completed its first year of operations in Mumbai. How was its performance during this period?
Despite starting as the fourth operator in Mumbai on dual-band (1,800 MHz), we have reached 3.5 lakh subscriber-base by the end of July, which makes us the fastest growing GSM service provider in this circle. Despite competition from WLL, we are adding 35,000 subscribers every month and plan to add another 4.5 lakh subscribers this year. Currently, 65 percent of our subscribers are on prepaid services and the rest are on postpaid. Our aim is to become Mumbai’s No. 1 operator among both GSM and WLL operators in the long run.
|COO, AirTel Mumbai
What sort of investment is AirTel looking at for beefing up its
infrastructure in Mumbai?
Bharti Tele-Ventures is investing Rs 225 crore this year in the Mumbai circle for AirTel. Of this, it is pumping in Rs 150 crore capex into network infrastructure and around Rs 75 crore in customer care and IT infrastructure. AirTel currently has 320 cell sites in Mumbai and is planning to add around 250 more this year. We have also installed an additional Siemens switch that can handle up to another 5 lakh subscribers. Siemens has also provided the IN while the radio has come from Motorola.
Recently, we have launched MMS using latest GPRS technology from Motorola. Value-added services like MVPN, voice portal and information services will be added soon on the network. We are also planning to launch a unique two-way prepaid roaming solution using Camel feature on our intelligent network soon.
What are the offline promotional initiatives that AirTel has launched in Mumbai during the year?
As part of our value-added services, AirTel forged an alliance with Rediff.com to launch online promotions for its brand in the cyber space. Earlier, we tied up with Coke to launch mobile promotions targeted at the youth. We also launched ‘Around Me’, a location-based service which allows our postpaid subscribers to use mobile phones as local navigators. Besides, we also tied up with Alcatel and Videocon to launch a combined package of an Alcatel One Touch 320 phone, a rental-free postpaid AirTel connection, and a Videocon Walkman for Rs 3,489.
How have you overcome the typical problems of a fourth operator?
Just like any other fourth operator, we typically faced issues like network congestion, lack of voice clarity and other bottlenecks of being on the 1,800 MHz band. However, by adding two switches, we have gone a long way to dispel most of these problems. While one switch can handle up to 5 lakh subscribers, our present infrastructure can scale up to nearly three times its strength. No wonder, our evening peak time congestion rate is the lowest in Mumbai. That has enabled us to gain many customers from the incumbent operators.