Airtel’s user base hits 60m in Africa
India’s Bharti Airtel has released latest subscribers numbers for its loss making business in Africa, where it entered in 2010, has now reached impressive 60 million mark. Airtel added 10 million customers across its operations in 17 African countries in less than 12 months of having crossed 50 million subscribers. Airtel hopes to add subscribers in Africa through maintaining a strong focus on rural penetration, innovation and customer responsiveness which has been lacking.Since launching the Airtel brand in Africa in 2010, Airtel has been on a steady growth path. The ability to communicate with each other is no longer a privilege in African countries they operate but is now a necessity according to the company. Airtel has already expanded 3.75G data services across 11 markets and mobile commerce service “Airtel Money” in 15 African markets. Since beginning of last year, Airtel has reduced the number of sites running only on diesel by more than 50 per cent through the use of innovative models such as a Hybrid Battery Bank.
In 2013, Airtel aims to completely eradicate the constant use of diesel to power its network. This means no site will rely solely on diesel power 24 hours a day. The company now ranks among the top four mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers according to industry statistics available. Bharti’s decision to enter African markets by acquiring Zain’s operations in 16 countries has been full of challenges. Average Revenue Per User of the African operations fallen to $5.7 in the June 2012 quarter from that in 2010. Per minute revenue on its network slid even sharply by 35% in the said period and this has resulted in 170 basis point reduction in operating margin, which was at 25.8% in the June quarter.Any immediate tariff revision in African business looks remote given the competitive scenario in significant markets like Kenya,Nigeria and Zambia. Airtel 3G initiatives in various countries where it opeates and have been fortunate to visit, it will take more time before any meaningful contribution company profits.