Mobile operator Airtel hit the landmark of one crore active subscribers on Wednesday evening, the fourth carrier to do so after Grameenphone, Banglalink and Robi.
When Airtel came to Bangladesh in 2010 by acquiring 70 percent stakes from Warid Telecom, the operator had only 25 lakh customers, meaning the Airtel management took on 1.25 lakh new subscribers on average every month.
“In our five years here, we added 75 lakh active connections under this network. I think that is a huge achievement,” said PD Sharma, managing director and chief executive officer of Airtel Bangladesh.
Urban youths account for a large part of Airtel's subscriber base, so there is plenty of scope to tap in new customers, he said. The operator's biggest achievement in the country is to be part of the data revolution. As of October, the operator had 38.61 lakh active internet users, of which 17.44 lakh use 3G data connection, consuming 1,229 terabytes of data every day. About 15 percent of Airtel Bangladesh's total revenue now comes from data.
“We are doing very well in the data segment, especially 3G,” he said, adding that Airtel subscribers are having the fastest data experience.
At present, the operator is observing 10-15 percent month-on-month data growth and 100 percent year-on-year. “I think this growth shows the strength of the market.”
“The market is mature enough now. And data usage is actually unprecedented in this market. Just two years back, none could envisage the data hunger of the youth segment.”
Sharma expects the government's Digital Bangladesh plan to complete before schedule, as smartphone penetration, data consumption per customer and data consumption per base station are rapidly increasing. At present, a merger with Robi, the second largest operator in the country in terms of revenue, is in the works for Airtel.
The merger is expected to be complete in the next three to four months, after which Airtel will lose its brand existence in Bangladesh.
Sharma refused to comment on the proposed merger but hopes Airtel's market position will become stronger than ever before in the next couple of months.
As of September, the country's total active mobile connections stood at 13.14 crore, of which Grameenphone accounts for 5.55 crore, Banglalink 3.26 crore and Robi 2.84 crore.