Kuala Lumpur: Aircel Ltd, an Indian mobile phone operator controlled by Malaysia’s Maxis Communications Bhd, plans to spend about $5.5 billion (Rs25,630 crore) in the next five years to expand its network in the world’s second largest wireless market.

Investing in growth: Chief executive officer of Malaysia’s Maxis Communications and Aircel director Sandip Das. Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters

“India continues to offer high growth opportunities for us and we expect to aggressively grow our presence and subscribers," Aircel director Sandip Das said in emailed comments today, confirming a report on the firm’s investment plans in the Business Times.

The spending plan may change depending on market conditions and will be funded through debt and equity, said Das, who is also chief executive at Maxis Communications.

Aircel plans to start services next year in all of India’s 23 circles, or coverage areas, from 18 now, Das said. The Gurgaon-based carrier is vying with Bharti Airtel Ltd, the nation’s largest operator and nine other rivals, to gain share in the wireless market that is adding about 14 million users, on average, a month.

Four more competitors including Norway’s Telenor ASA are set to start services in the country of 1.2 billion people, where less than half have mobile phone connections. India had almost 472 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of September, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Telenor, the largest Nordic phone company, plans to start operations in India by Christmas and expects the Asian nation’s wireless market to double in three to four years, chief executive officer Jon Fredrik Baksaas said yesterday.

Aircel, 74% owned by Maxis Communications, had 25.7 million subscribers at the end of September, according to India’s telecom regulator. The Kuala Lumpur-based company, controlled by 71-year-old Malaysian billionaire Ananda Krishnan, recently raised $3.3 billion selling 30% of its domestic unit Maxis Bhd in the biggest public offering in South-East Asia.