New Delhi: India’s top mobile operator Bharti Airtel’s overseas acquisition plans are still on hold, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Bharti Airtel had earlier said it is not actively looking at overseas buys after its $23 billion planned tie-up talks with South Africa’s MTN collapsed.

“No change," Manoj Kohli told reporters when asked if the telecom firm had rethought its overseas expansion plans.

Analysts have said Bharti could look at overseas expansion as its home market saturates and fierce competition gnaws away call charges that are already the world’s cheapest.

Earlier on Thursday, Indian state-run telecom firm Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s chairman said the firm is looking at smaller deals in Africa, but declined to comment on plans for Kuwait’s Zain .

India, with 488.40 million mobile phones in use by end October, has more users than any country other than China.

With a record 16.7 million mobile users added in October, India is the world’s fastest growing market for such services and has attracted foreign and domestic firms.

Norway’s Telenor will be the twelfth operator when it launches services on Thursday.

User adds stable

Kohli said call rates in India were already affordable but left open a question on whether Bharti would respond to cuts by other operators.

“That is a market situation," he said.

Bharti and other Indian operators have been forced to follow aggressive billings plans by sixth largest operator Tata Teleservices, which has shot to the top of the monthly user adds chart for three straight months to October.

Kohli said Bharti’s November additions would not swing much from the past trend. The firm added 2.7 million users in October to take its subscriber base to 113.21 million.

On Wednesday, Tata Tele said its November user growth was close to the 3.9 million added in October.

“We’ve had very stable growth and we’ll continue with stable growth," Kohli said.

By 12:47 pm, shares in Bharti were up 1.5% at Rs309.25 in a Mumbai market that was up 0.76%.