Colombo: India’s top mobile operator Bharti Airtel Limited today forayed into Sri Lanka by inking an agreement with the island nation’s main foreign investment promotion body to invest $150 million in rolling out operations, a company official said.
Bharti, which will become the fifth mobile phone operator here, is currently scouting for locations to set up base stations and talking to equipment vendors to rollout its network here.
“If things go as planned, we are hoping to launch our services by the end of this calander year,” Bharti’s Director (Legal and Regulatory Affairs) Narendra Gupta told reporters here.
Airtel had recently got the permission from Sri Lankan Telecom Regulatory Commission to start 2G and 3G services. It bagged the license competing against Reliance Communications and Maxis Telecom.
The Sri Lankan operation would be the first international foray for the Indian company, with the Bharti hoping to use it as a base to expand into the South Asian region.
“Sri Lanka is a very promising market for telecom services, with lower phone penetration at 20%,” Gupta said.
The telecommunications field is one of the fastest growing sectors in Sri Lanka, with the number of mobile phone subscribers rising to 4.5 million by the end of 2006, according to the island country’s Central Bank.
The market is dominated by Telekom Malaysia’s Dialog Telekom with over 3.3 million subscribers on its network, distantly followed by Mobitel, Celltel Lanka and Hutchison.