Airtel in talks with potential partners for African tower companies

9 Jun 2011

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, is reportedly in negotiations with a number of operators regarding the possibility of sharing telecoms infrastructure in Africa, India’s Economic Times reports. With companies such as UAE-based Etisalat, South Africa’s MTN, France Telecom, UK mobile giant Vodafone and Luxembourg’s Millicom all having been mentioned as potential partners, Airtel CEO Manoj Kohli was reported as saying: ‘We have hived off the towers in all African countries we operate into separate companies … Talks have started for sharing, but it is too early to predict if we can replace the Indus [Airtel’s domestic tower company] model in Africa.’ Outlining Bharti’s immediate focus areas for its African operations, the executive said that 16 independent tower companies – one for each of its African countries of operation – would soon commence the construction of new infrastructure in a bid to expand geographical coverage in all of the group’s markets. In addition, Kohli also confirmed that Airtel is looking at ‘leading the Africa market for 3G services’ and introducing mobile commerce services in all African countries where it has a presence; all 16 of the group’s units are expected to have launched mobile commerce options by the end of 2012.

India, Bharti Airtel