Bharti Airtel Limited
Bharti Airtel Limited, commonly known as Airtel, is an Indian multinational telecommunications services company headquartered at New Delhi, India. It operates in 20 countries across South Asia, Africa and the Channel Islands. Airtel has GSM network in all countries in which it operates, providing 2G, 3G and 4G services depending upon the country of operation. Airtel is the world’s third largest mobile telecommunications company with over 261 million subscribers across 150 countries as of August 2012. It is the largest cellular service provider in India, with 183. 1 million subscribers as of November 2012. Airtel is the third largest in-country mobile operator by subscriber base, behind China Mobile and China Unicom. Airtel is the largest provider of mobile telephony and second largest provider of fixed telephony in India, and is also a provider of broadband and subscription television services. It offers its telecom services under the airtel brand, and is headed by Sunil Bharti Mittal. Bharti Airtel is the first Indian telecom service provider to achieve Cisco Gold Certification. It also acts as a carrier for national and international long distance communication services.
The company has a submarine cable landing station at Chennai, which connects the submarine cable connecting Chennai and Singapore. Airtel is credited with pioneering the business strategy of outsourcing all of its business operations except marketing, sales and finance and building the ‘minutes factory’ model of low cost and high volumes. The strategy has since been copied by several operators. Its network—base stations, microwave links, etc. is maintained by Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Network whereas business support is provided by IBM, and transmission towers are maintained by another company (Bharti Infratel Ltd. in India). Ericsson agreed for the first time to be paid by the minute for installation and maintenance of their equipment rather than being paid up front, which allowed Airtel to provide low call rates of INR1/minute (US$0. 02/minute). During the last financial year (2009–10), Bharti negotiated for its strategic partner Alcatel-Lucent to manage the network infrastructure for the tele-media business.
On 31 May 2012, Bharti Airtel awarded the three-year contract to Alcatel-Lucent for setting up an Internet Protocol access network (mobile backhaul) across the country. This would help consumers access internet at faster speed and high quality internet browsing on mobile handsets. Sunil Mittal founded the Bharti Group. In 1983, Mittal was in an agreement with Germany’s Siemens to manufacture push-button telephone models for the Indian market. In 1986, Mittal incorporated Bharti Telecom Limited (BTL), and his company became the first in India to offer push-button telephones, establishing the basis of Bharti Enterprises.
By the early 1990s, Sunil Mittal had also launched the country’s first fax machines and its first cordless telephones. In 1992, Mittal won a bid to build a cellular phone network in Delhi. In 1995, Mittal incorporated the cellular operations as Bharti Tele-Ventures and launched service in Delhi. In 1996, cellular service was extended to Himachal Pradesh. In 1999, Bharti Enterprises acquired control of JT Holdings, and extended cellular operations to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
In 2000, Bharti acquired control of Skycell Communications, in Chennai. In 2001, the company acquired control of Spice Cell in Calcutta. Bharti Enterprises went public in 2002, and the company was listed on Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange of India. In 2003, the cellular phone operations were rebranded under the single Airtel brand. In 2004, Bharti acquired control of Hexacom and entered Rajasthan. In 2005, Bharti extended its network to Andaman and Nicobar. This expansion allowed it to offer voice services all across India.
In 2009, Airtel launched its first international mobile network in Sri Lanka. In 2010, Airtel acquired the African operations of the Kuwait based Zain Telecom. In March 2012, Airtel launched a mobile operation in Rwanda. On 26 February 2013, Airtel announced that it had deployed Ericsson’s Mobile Broadband Charging (MBC) solution and completely modernized its prepaid services for its subscribers in India. As a part of the deal, Ericsson’s multi service MBC suite allows prepaid customers to have personalized profile based data charging plans.
Prepaid customers will be able to customize their data plans across mobility, fixed line and broadband by cross bundling across multiple domains (2G, 3G, 4G/LTE & Wi-Fi). It will also offer flexible multi service charging in geographical redundant mode, making Airtel the first operator to implement geographical redundancy at such a large scale. In May 2013, Bharti Infotel paid Rs 50,000 as compensation to a customer “for unfair trade practices”. The customer alleged that the company continued to aggressively demand payment despite customer requests for disconnection of service.