Bharti confirms launch postponement until September

12 Mar 2008

Bharti Airtel Lanka, the start-up cellco owned by India’s Bharti Airtel, has pushed back its commercial launch date from this month to September, reports Lanka Business Online. Bharti yesterday signed a deal with Sri Lanka’s investment promotion agency, the Board of Investment, to spend half of its planned USD200 million CAPEX in setting up a network of GSM/W-CDMA base stations to launch the island’s fifth mobile service. At the signing ceremony, investment promotion minister Sarath Amunugama revealed that the Indian operator had faced ‘difficulties’ in getting approvals for its towers from local authorities and sharing towers with other operators. Amali Nanayakkara, CEO of Bharti Airtel Lanka, said that operations would only be launched when adequate infrastructure was in place to give customers the desired quality of service. She added that the firm had not had any planning rejections from authorities or rival operators, but the process had been slow because ‘sharing towers is a new concept for existing operators. It also depends on whether space is available and [rivals’] own expansion plans.’ She said Airtel was willing to share its network, without revealing how many towers it planned to roll out. Olof Haag, chairman of Bharti Airtel Lanka, said the original target of launching in March had been ‘tentative’ and ‘over-ambitious.’

Sri Lanka, Bharti Airtel, Bharti Airtel Lanka