Malaysia's top mobile phone operator, Maxis Communications, said it will invest $4-5 billion over the next 2-3 years to expand its business operations in India.
Maxis owns 74 percent stake in Aircel Cellular Ltd, which operates in 10 circles in India. The remaining stake is owned by the Apollo Hospitals Group.
According to Sandip Das, CEO, Maxis Communications, the money for the expansion would be raised through a mix of debt and equity. We are open for all options, we may even also go in for diluting stake or acquisitions. The issue is not money. Our first priority is for strong pan India network, Das said.
We see the Indian telecom market growing further and we want to grab this opportunity. We plan to beef up our presence pan-India in the next two years. We have already pumped in two billion dollars so far, Das said, adding that Aircel, which has licence and the spectrum to operate in all 23 circles across India, would have a pan-India presence by 2010.
Aircel presently operates in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Kolkata, rest of Bengal, Assam, North -East, Bihar, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
Aircel, which has 10.8 million subscribers and commands 18.2 percent of the mobile market, posted revenues of $500 million in 2007. The telecom firm, which has 7000 telecom towers, plans to double the number during the current fiscal year and also launch Research In Motion's (RIM) Blackberry services. For the same, the firm would need to spend $1.6 billion.
We are looking to introduce several value-added services in India that we have already rolled out in other countries. For instance, multimedia messaging or value-added-services built around SMSs is one area we are strongly exploring for the Indian market. These are available in Malaysia right now. We will launch special schemes and tariffs for rural and urban India, Das said.
The firm also has plans of offering WiMax and broadband services, he added.
Thanks to call rates of as low as one US cent a minute, availability of cheaper handsets and expansion of networks to smaller towns and rural areas, the Indian mobile market has leapfrogged the US to become the second largest and the world's fastest growing mobile market in the world. With Indian operators adding 8-9 million subscribers a month, at the end of March, total number of mobile users stood at 261 million, data from the telecom regulator showed.
According to market analysts, mobile users in India have jumped 25 times between 2002 and 2007, but the potential for growth remains huge as just 22 percent of the billion-plus population has a mobile phone. Though India's mobile revolution is mainly confined to the cities, the real prize for phone companies is the vast rural market, where nearly 70 percent of India's 1.1 billion population live.