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Aircel to invest $5 billion in 3 yrs
Bangalore, FEB 24 (AGENCIES):
Published on 25 Feb. 2009 12:16 AM IST
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Timing its pan-India footprint with the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Chennai-based mobile services provider Aircel Ltd is looking to hit 18 circles by mid-April. It has set a target to invest $5 billion in India over the next three years. The company, owned 74% by Malaysia's Maxis communications and 26% by the Apollo Hospitals Group, currently operates in 12 telecom circles with a combined subscriber base of 16 million. It is also the lead sponsor for the Chennai Super Kings IPL team. Aircel launched its services in the Bangalore circle on Monday and is preparing to launch in AP in the next two weeks. Mumbai, UP East and West, and Delhi, among others, will follow soon. It has invested Rs 550 crore in Bangalore circle and will pump in an additional Rs 1100 crore over the next 10-11 months, Sandeep Singh, chief operating officer, Aircel Ltd, said. "We would add the remaining 6-7 circles in the next 60 days and would account for 70% of the mobile telecom footprint in the country," Singh said, adding the company had set a target to complete investing $5 billion in India over the next three years. It has already invested $2 billion of this, he added. Though a late entrant in many circles, Aircel is pinning hopes on the Chennai Super Kings and number portability, which according to industry watchers, is slated for an August kick off. Singh sees number portability as a great opportunity for Aircel as the company has the technology -- thanks to Maxis Communications, which has the experience of number portability in Malaysia. "We are only waiting for the centre to set up the clearing exchange to make number portability a reality and the technology for it is just a matter of rolling it out," he said. It has taken Aircel almost a decade after its Chennai launch to hit the aggressive path, but the expansion comes at a time when competition for market share is at its peak. Just two players, Airtel and Vodafone, accounted for almost 57% of the total subscription base in the country end of January while call rates have been plummeting. Add to this mix the entry of a big player like the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani-owned Reliance Communications with its own GSM services that are already available in 14 circles, and one can imagine the difficulty Aircel can face to gain numbers.

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