Industry disruptor Reliance Jio may offer a tempting bait, but people in India's northeast apparently prefer Airtel. Yesterday, the company reportedly announced that 60 per cent of Aircel customers in Assam and the other states in the North East have already ported to their network. The pan-India figure is slightly lower at around 50 per cent - or 20 lakh Aircel customers - across the country switching to the country's top mobile operator. In fact, Bharti Airtel claimed in a statement that they have the highest share of all port-ins from the bankrupt telco so far.
"It is heartening to see Airtel being the most preferred operator for Aircel customers across India. This also underlines the strength of our robust distribution network and digital onboarding services," Ajai Puri, COO, Bharti Airtel told The Economic Times.
Experts have reportedly pointed out that since Reliance Jio is focused on 4G, Airtel stood the best chance to grab the migrating customers. Besides, the latter had anyway enjoyed a lion's share of most markets where Aircel boasted a footprint, so it would be the obvious choice for conversion.
To retain its stronghold in the Northeast, last December Airtel signed an agreement with Department of Telecom and the Universal Service Obligation Fund for provision of mobile services to set up over 2,000 mobile towers/sites in unconnected pockets of the region and deliver telecom connectivity to over 2,100 villages, and in national highways, over the next 18 months.
Stepping up the ante further, Bharti Airtel recently announced plans to roll out 6,000 new mobile sites across the region in fiscal 2018-19 to add to network capacity and take services deeper into the unconnected hinterland. According to Puri, this will increase the company's mobile sites across Assam and the rest of the Northeast by 31 per cent to 25,000.
The operator also plans to add 3,000 km of new optic fiber in the region to take its fiber footprint to 16,000 km, which will support the growth of high-speed data services, he said.
(With PTI inputs)