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Bharti Profits From Mobile Boom

Indian operator sees revenues, profits, and customer uptake soar in the past year. Now it needs services like IPTV to help raise ARPUs

April 29, 2009

3 Min Read
Bharti Profits From Mobile Boom

Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) saw its revenues and profits soar in the 12 months to the end of March, following a year of explosive growth for the carrier and the market in general.

The Indian operator, which leads the mobile market with a 24 percent market share, added 32.4 million customers to bring its user base to 96.6 million. (See India Sets Subs Record and A Guide to India's Telecom Market.)

Table 1: Bharti Airtel's Growth, Fiscal 2009

Mar-09

Mar-08

Year-on-year growth

Full-year revenues

IR369.6 billion ($7.4B)

IR270.3 billion ($5.41B)

37%

Full-year net income

IR84.7 billion ($1.7B)

IR67.0 billion ($1.34B)

26%

Mobile customers

93.9 million

62.0 million

52%

Fixed line customers

2.7 million

2.3 million

19%

Total customers

96.6 million

64.3 million

50%





Of concern to Bharti is the erosion of its monthly mobile average revenue per user (ARPU). During the first three months of 2009, that figure was IR305 ($6.11), down from IR357 ($7.15) during the same period a year earlier.

The same trend was evident at Bharti Telemedia, the carrier's fixed-line business. Monthly ARPU fell to IR1,071 ($21.44) during the fiscal fourth quarter ending March 31, down from IR1,137 ($22.76) a year earlier.

Bharti is hoping the introduction of new data services can reverse that trend in both the mobile and fixed-line cases.

The availability of 3G spectrum will help the carrier launch new mobile non-voice services, though the auction of that 3G spectrum is in limbo. (See Indian Operator Expects Lengthy 3G Delay .)

On the fixed-line side, Telemedia, which now has nearly 1.1 million broadband customers, is already addressing value-added services with the launch of IPTV and a related upgrade to its DSL plant. Telemedia recently launched 16 Mbit/s services in New Delhi, Chennai, and Bangalore, and ultimately plans to roll out GPON-based fiber access broadband services. (See Bharti Airtel Speeds Up DSL and Indian Carriers Commit to GPON.)

The "Airtel Digital TV Interactive" IPTV service launched in January in New Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida. It includes time-shifted viewing, interactive services (such as booking movie tickets), and video on demand.

The carrier's main IPTV technology partner is UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI), which has supplied its RollingStream middleware and video delivery system along with video infrastructure from partners such as Optibase Ltd. (Nasdaq: OBAS). (See Bharti Picks UTStarcom and Bharti Picks Optibase.

Bharti tells Light Reading that it's working with a number of companies, including UTStarcom, Infosys Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: INFY), and Indiagames Ltd. , to develop its interactive services.

While it's too early for Bharti to talk about the uptake of the IPTV service, it has had almost instant success with its DTH (direct to home) satellite TV service, which has signed up about 300,000 customers since its launch in October 2008. (See Airtel Offers DTH TV.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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