What does Airtel’s Sunil Mittal think about Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio?

Sweating bullets.
Sweating bullets.
Image: Reuters/Kamal Kishore
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The head of India’s largest mobile network operator, Bharti Airtel, has given his verdict on Mukesh Ambani’s highly awaited telecom venture, Reliance Jio.

Sunil Mittal, Airtel’s chairman, believes it will have a big impact on the telecom industry in Asia’s third largest economy. In an interview to Bloomberg, Mittal said Jio’s entry will lead to consolidation in the telecom industry:

Whatever Reliance does, it does on a scale that is always big and impactful. That is exactly what Reliance is planning to do in the telecommunication sector. From what we hear the launch will be imminent in the coming 30, 60, 90 days. India has 10, 11 operators. We should have about four or five at the very most.

In June, Ambani—chairman of Reliance Industries and India’s richest man—told shareholders that Jio will start full commercial operations by December this year. Reliance has invested over Rs70,000 crore ($11 billion) in the venture, which will provide high-speed internet along with a range of services including a music streaming service, a mobile wallet, and a news platform.

“I am confident that Jio will play a significant role in lifting India from its current 142nd rank on internet penetration to amongst the top 10 nations in the world,” Ambani had said in June. 

That’s perhaps why Mittal is also rolling up his sleeves. Bharti Airtel will invest $3.5 billion till March this year to strengthen the company’s 4G services, Mittal told Bloomberg. The firm is also looking at buying spectrum from other companies.

Other telecom companies are also investing big money in 4G. In August, Vodafone India announced that it will roll out its 4G services across major cities in India by the end of this year. Idea Cellular, the telecom arm of the Aditya Birla Group, is also increasing its foothold in rural areas.

Let the telecom wars begin—again.