Airtel Lanka to launch services in war-ravaged northern region | india | Hindustan Times
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Airtel Lanka to launch services in war-ravaged northern region

india Updated: Jul 31, 2009 22:26 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Airtel Lanka, subsidiary of India’s biggest telecom company Airtel, is getting ready to launch services in the war–ravaged districts of northern Sri Lanka which were under the control of the recently-defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“As we speak, (Airtel Lanka) operations are being rolled out in the eastern province,’’ said Amali Nanayakkara, CEO of the company. The LTTE held sway over the east till three years ago.

The company claims to have reach in all other parts of Sri Lanka other than east and north.

Launching services in the north would take some more time as the LTTE were wiped out of from parts of the northern districts only in May. There are several empty towns and villages in the region as the original residents, Tamils, were repeatedly displaced and now housed in refugee camps. They number about 2.3 lakh and the Lankan government has promised to resettle a majority of them in the next four months.

“We plan to launch (in northern districts) in two-three months. Obviously, we will start operations where people are living. The planning has begun. Government teams are there. I don’t believe that there are excessive security issues any more,’’ Nanayakkara said.

The Indian company — which is the biggest Indian investor on the island — launched its operations here in January and claimed to have crossed the 1 million revenue earning customers in less than six months. It claimed to be the fastest growing wireless service operator in the country.

Nanayakkara said the company had pledged $250 million as investment in the country, out of which $120 million had already been pumped in.

Answering a question on whether Airtel Lanka was planning to acquire the local telecom company, Tigo, Sanjay Kapoor, deputy CEO, Bharti Airtel, said the company would look at any opportunity for “synergistic’’ value addition.

According to government data, there are approximately 12 million mobile phone users in Sri Lanka. The leader of the crowded market is Telekom Malaysia’s, Dialog Telecom.