India's largest mobile service operator Bharti Airtel is betting on the upcoming World Cup and Indian Premier League (IPL) to hook customers on to its 3G (third generation) service to view cricket matches live on their mobile phones.
"We will pitch for more subscribers during the World Cup and IPL matches to flag our 3G service being rolled out, as they will be able to capture the exciting matches live from anywhere and when on the move," Airtel chief executive V. Venkatesh told IANS.
Airtel is the main corporate sponsor for all international cricket series played in India during the next three years, bagging the rights at Rs 3.33 crore per match, covering Tests, one-day internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 (T-20) games.
The 10th International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup ODIs will be played in the sub-continent during Feb 19-April 2 and the fourth edition of IPL T-20 matches in April-May.
The company, which paid Rs 12,290 crore for the 3G spectrum licence in 13 circles, rolled out the high-speed multimedia service this week in Karnataka and plans to cover about 40 cities in other circles by March.
"In the run-up, we will carry promos to showcase the benefits of our latest service in watching the World Cup and the IPL in real time. Such big-ticket sporting events give us an opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of the 3G service," Venkatesh said.
With over 150 million subscribers in the circles, it operates across the country. The company is targeting 20-30 percent of them to migrate to 3G from 2G on its GSM (global system for mobile communication) network in the first year of operation.
"About 20 per cent of our customers are already using the 2-2.5G spectrum for various data services, including internet access to check mails, websites, news portals and chat," Venkatesh said.
"We are confident that they will migrate to 3G for the advantages and host of services we offer at attractive tariffs," he added.
Airtel chose this tech hub as a launch-pad for unveiling the 3G service as Karnataka is its largest circle by revenue with 15 million customers and commands about 50 per cent of the market share in the state.
The company's high-speed download packet access technology will enable customers to watch live streaming television on the mobile phone with quality visuals and sound.
"It is a common strategy to make best use of sporting events for promoting one's product or service. We see sales of televisions surge during World Cup soccer, Olympics and international cricket matches in India," Venkatesh pointed out.
"Similarly, World Cup and IPL offer us a great marketing opportunity to hardsell our new service," he added.
According to Airtel brand & media head Mohit Beotra, cricket is a game that hooks Indian masses as no other sport so passionately.
"We believe that cricket as a sport represents the zeal and vigour our youth stand for. We are hence looking forward to a long-term association with the game for our brand promotion," Beotra said in a statement earlier.
The Airtel 3G also gives its customers the power of high speed mobile broadband to enjoy other services, including video calling, social networking, video watching and music downloads.
In view of the competition hotting up, with other operators too rolling out their 3G service, Airtel is offering time-based tariff plans for light users of data where usage and billing will be by hour and flexi-shield plans for heavy users of data where the service will be capped.