he country’s largest telecom services provider, Bharti Airtel, announced that it will invest Rs.60,000 crore over the next three-years to upgrade its networks to provide quality services amid increasing competition.
“The programme, called Project Leap, will see a network transformation. Large parts of this investment will improve voice and data services,” said Bharti Airtel Managing Director and CEO (India and South Asia), Gopal Vittal. Funds will be raised through internal cash accruals and includes the capital expenditure target of about $2.2 billion for the current fiscal year.
This investment will be in addition to the Rs.1,60,000 crore the company has already invested in its active and passive network, spectrum, fibre, submarine cables and other systems till date.
The announcement comes amid rising complaints of frequent call drops faced by the customers. The government had pointed out that lack of investments in networks by operators was the primary reason for poor quality of services. Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio is also expected to launch 4G operations this fiscal, which will intensify the competition in the already crowded Indian telecom sector.
“We have seen improvement in quality of network in the last six months. I would like to reiterate that we are not where we need to be. There are locations and localities where we still struggle...we are working with all the concerned authorities,” Mr. Vittal said in New Delhi.
Under Project Leap, Airtel will deploy over 70,000 base stations in the current fiscal, its largest deployment in a single year since inception. Over three years, more than 160,000 base stations will be set up nationwide.
To a question on whether the company was going to invest a part of this fund for spectrum acquisition, Mr. Vittal said there was no immediate need as it had bought sufficient spectrum during the last couple of years. The company plans to buy airwaves in circles where there is a shortage, he said.
Airtel would expand its mobile broadband coverage to all towns and over 2,50,000 villages by March, and in three years, it plans to offer mobile broadband to over 500,000 villages in the country. The operator will also deploy a range of solutions including small cells, carrier aggregation solutions, wi-fi and the use of multiple technologies across different spectrum bands for its home broadband network.
“Over a period of three years, we plan to deploy over 100,000 solutions through a combination of wi-fi hotspots, small cells and indoor solutions,” Mr. Vittal said.
Airtel will cumulatively deploy more than 550,000 km of domestic and international fibre and will swap its legacy networks and base stations over a three year period and replace them with efficient technologies.
The company will also upgrade its copper assets through new age Vectoring Technology. This technology will enable Airtel to offer 50 Mbps speeds from its current 16 Mbps by 2016.
The company
plans to acquire
airwaves in circles where there is
a shortage