Bharti sees recovery in per user usage

Bharti sees recovery in per user usage

New Delhi: Mobile phone services operator BhartiAirtel Ltd, the top carrier in the world’s fastest growing wireless market, expects to see a recovery in usage per user and stabilizing call charges, the company’s South Asia chief said on Tuesday.

Sanjay Kapoor, who took over in March as the company’s chief executive for India and South Asia, said in an interview that consolidation in the fiercely competitive Indian mobile phone market was inevitable, with room for five or six carriers compared with 15 at present.

Bharti, 32% owned by South-East Asia’s top carrier Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, last month had reported its first profit drop in three years. March quarter earnings were hit by a margin-crushing tariff war among operators in their bid to add more customers.

“The resurgence of traffic and the resurgence of revenue earning customers during the last quarter is delightful," said Kapoor.

“It has set a good recovery trend in hyper-competition," he said when asked about the outlook for the company.

Bharti saw the total minutes carried on its network growing 12% from the previous quarter, while average usage per user bounced back after falling for six quarters.

In March, Bharti struck a $9 billion (Rs40,590 crore today) deal to buy telecom operations in 15 African countries from Kuwait’s Zain, and expects to become the world’s No. 5 mobile firm after closing the deal.

Work to close the deal is in process, Kapoor said, declining to elaborate. The chief executive for the company’s international unit, Manoj Kohli, had said last month that the firm aimed to close the deal by mid-May.

Nine mobile carriers, including Bharti, are bidding for high-speed third-generation mobile phone licences in India. The highest bid for a nationwide licence reached $3 billion on Monday, in excess of expectations.

Kapoor termed the bidding as “aggressive" and said expensive entry costs would prevent firms from offering cheap services.

He also said there should not be any import restrictions on telecom network equipment into India.

Under the current rules, telecom carriers must apply for security clearance from the Union government before placing any purchase order.