Bharti Airtel, which is set to launch its operations in Rwanda, said it has acquired its 50 million mobile customers in Africa.
The Indian mobile phone operator said, Wednesday, it added 14 million new mobile customers within just 17 months after it acquired Zain’s mobile operations in 16 African countries.
“This milestone demonstrates our continued dedication and commitment to Africa,” Manoj Kohli, the Chief Executive Officer of Bharti Airtel said in a press release.
Airtel plans to launch its operations in Rwanda early next year after telecom regulator, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), granted it a license to operate 2G and 3G GSM network in the country.
Airtel has operations in 19 countries across Asia and Africa and will join the fray in Rwanda hoping to hit 100 million African customers by the end of March 2013.
Its entry is also set to end the duopoly presently enjoyed by MTN Rwanda and TIGO Rwanda.
The firm has invested approximately US$1b in its network infrastructure in Africa during the current financial year and plans an outlay of US$100m in Rwanda within the next three years.
“We have made significant investments in our operations and brought in our ecosystem of world-class IT, networks and customer care partners to Africa and this achievement has been possible through their support and commitment,” Kohli said.
Last year, Bharti scooped two global mobile awards for innovation including having the best mobile money transfer, a platform the firm has promised to rollout in Rwanda once it launches operations in the country.
Mobile money service is one of the most lucrative products for mobile operators in Rwanda.
According to figures from the central bank, Rwf4.2b was transferred between January and June this year in 212,012 transactions. TIGO Rwanda and MTN Rwanda had a combined network of 647 agents/branches and consolidated customer base of 285,527 in the period under review.
Industry analysts say the entry of Airtel, which has maintained a low cost model on the continent, through strategic partnerships with companies such as IBM, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens, Huawei, Spanco, Tech Mahindra and Samsung will lead to competitive services.
Already, local internet Service Provider (ISPs) forecast that internet charges will drop early next year while mobile operators have continued to rollout promotions with dearer call tariffs.
RURA expects Bharti Airtel—the world’s fifth biggest mobile operator—to boost the country’s ambitions of attaining six million mobile subscriber by the end of 2012.
Active mobile phone subscribers increased to 4,304,532 in September this year up from 4,247,751 in August, according to the most recent statistics from RURA.