Indian mobile network operator Aircel has set out plans to invest approximately USD1.4 billion in 2010 with a view to expanding its areas of operation, according to the Economic Times. The cellco, controlled by Malaysia’s Maxis Communications, aims to roll out services in five circles – Haryana, Madyha Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab by June 2010, to give it a pan-India presence. Aircel currently operates in 17 of India’s 22 telecoms circles – Tamil Nadu (including Chennai), Assam, North East, Orissa, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Calcutta, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh West, Uttar Pradesh East, Maharashtra & Goa and Mumbai. In addition to the investment this year, the operator has also said that it will spend around USD2.6 billion between 2011 and 2012.
In terms of raising the funds for expansion, a significant bulk of the money is expected to come from the recent sale of Aircel’s tower infrastructure; in January 2010 the mobile operator divested around 17,000 towers to GTL Infrastructure in a deal worth approximately INR85 billion (USD1.85 billion). Sandip Das, CEO of Maxis, has also noted that it is unlikely that Aircel will opt for an initial public offering (IPO) this year, saying: ‘The company’s growth is not restricted for lack of funds. The tower hive off had given us liquidity of around USD3 billion. We will reinvest (it) in the current business.’
In terms of subscribers Aircel is hoping to triple its current customer base to 100 million by end-2012; according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, at end-December 2009 the cellco had signed up 31.02 million users, making it the fifth largest mobile operator in the country by subscribers.