Barcelona: Founder Chairman of Bharti Airtel Sunil Mittal said on Thursday his company will continue to be the number one player among Indian mobile service providers, despite Vodafone’s entry into the country.
“I will say that Arun Sarin has already won his Quarter final and semi-final matches as Vodafone has emerged number two cellular operator in India, but his (Sarins) final match is with us and I am sure to win that,” said Mittal.
Bharti continues to be number one GSM cellular player in India with a subscriber base of over 60 million, followed by Vodafone with 41.14 million mobile users as on 31 January.
They are still at some distance from Airtel’s subscriber base, Mittal said, while giving all credit to Sarin for his vision to become top player wherever he goes.
It is always a challenge to compete with players like Vodafone, world’s largest GSM cellular operator, he said, adding that, “whenever we face competition from strong players like Vodafone, Airtel has emerged even stronger and consolidated its position to be number one player.”
Vodafone had bought 67% stake in Hutch-Essar last year for $11.1 billion and at that time the firm was present in 16 circles. Vodafone-Essar has recently been given additional spectrum for launching mobile operations in another six circles, which would enable the company to become a pan-India service provider.
Vodafone has been extremely aggressive in expanding its network and had recently announced an investment of $2 billion annually for the next three years to reach every nook and corner of the country.
Both operators have made their plans public to tap the rural market for next wave of growth in the mobile telephony and Airtel has committed to reach over 3.20 lakh villages by December.
Even Sarin announced at the GSM World Congress that covering the rural India was a better bet.
“You go to rural society and provide them quality services they (people) are willing to pay. Rolling out network in the rural India is our first job,” Sarin said.
Both, Mittal and Sarin have raised the issue of scarce spectrum available and it was hampering the growth process.
Sarin had even said Vodafone would buy it from the market once it was alloted to new players. Nine firms have been issued Letters of Intent and are in queue for getting spectrum to start rolling out services.
Government has been saying that enough spectrum was available in most parts of the country, except in few circles like Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and few others and would start distributing it soon.