Proactive spectrum acquisition has been a conscious strategy for us to secure our long-term roadmap.
The year witnessed the expansion of our philanthropic portfolio with the launch of Satya Bharti Abhiyan, a rural sanitation initiative, involving a total outlay of up to
` 1,000 Mn.
Telecom is clearly morphing into a data-centric future, which is destined to throw up its unique set of opportunities and challenges.
Global telecommunication is in the middle of a significant transformational shift today. While 4G as a technology is stabilising rapidly, numerous possibilities in the realm of M2M connectivity are fast appearing on the horizon, signalling exciting future possibilities. Regulatory issues with regard to in-market consolidation are becoming an active action point for the industry across the world.
Riding on accelerated smartphone penetration and new generation network roll-outs, exponential growth of data services remained the defining feature of incremental telecom growth in emerging markets during the year. Rapid adoption of data services has not only meant proliferation of new application based services, but also signalled potentially disruptive changes in the ecosystem.
Emerging and developing economies emitted mixed signals during the year as global economic developments impacted them in varied and asymmetric ways. While India benefited significantly from lower global commodity prices to register substantive and stable economic recovery, Africa’s commodity driven economies struggled to cope with weakening prices and sharp depreciation of currencies in several markets. We clearly encountered contrasting environs in the two key geographies.
Airtel India was a clear bright spot for us, where we not only wrested back revenue market share, but improved profitability as well. The Company’s customer acquisition and retention strategy yielded significantly reduced churn. With enhanced investment in data networks - both 3G and 4G, and strategic initiatives like ‘one touch internet’ to attract new customers to the internet, we experienced a pronounced uptick in data services, which now accounts for over 17.6% of our revenues in India. We expect further momentum in this direction in the coming days.
Proactive spectrum acquisition has been a conscious strategy for us to secure our long-term roadmap. In March 2015 auctions in India, the Company not only successfully renewed its prime 900 MHz spectrum holdings in six circles, but managed to acquire additional spectrum in different bands in 13 other circles. Post these renewals and fresh acquisitions, we now have a spectrum mix that gives us unmatched pan-India reach across 2G, 3G and 4G.
An unfavourable economic environment in Africa, further complicated by Ebola outbreak, adversely affected our revenue growth in the region. Robust growth in data traffic, however, proved to be a strong counterweight against weakening voice revenues. Our 3G footprint now covers all 17 markets in Africa. We also made our 4G debut in the continent during the year with launches in Rwanda and Seychelles. With over 6.2 Mn Airtel Money customers, we are well on course to become a major mobile commerce service provider in the continent.
During the year, Bharti Airtel undertook several initiatives to meet its longterm funding requirements through a strategic mix of debt and equity. The Company’s subsidiary Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) B.V. successfully raised
USD 1.75 Bn and EUR 750 Mn through two issues of Guaranteed Senior Notes on extremely favourable terms. We also offloaded a total of 140 Mn shares of Bharti Infratel in two tranches for a total consideration of ` 40,689 Mn, primarily to increase free float and thereby better price discovery. Our African subsidiaries also entered into several agreements with international tower companies for divestment of over 10,000 towers in different markets.
The Company’s Board went through multiple changes during the year. While Tsun-yan Hsieh, Ajay Lal and Manoj Kohli departed after long and extremely productive stints, Shishir Priyadarshi, Director, World Trade Organization (WTO), entered the Board during this period. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to Tsunyan, Ajay and Manoj for their valuable service to the Board during their respective tenures.
Our philanthropic arm Bharti Foundation through its school programme is now reaching out to nearly 52,000 rural school students through 254 Satya Bharti Schools, 334 Learning Centres and other Quality Support initiatives in India. The year also witnessed the expansion of our philanthropic portfolio with the launch of Satya Bharti Abhiyan, a rural sanitation initiative, involving a total outlay of up to
` 1,000 Mn. In Africa, in addition to the ‘Adopt a School’ Programme, which is now catering to over 24,000 students, our subsidiaries worked closely with Governments and NGOs to help curb the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in different countries.
Internet is fast becoming an all-pervasive element in our lives, impacting every conceivable area of activity – commerce, banking, entertainment, education, health and governance, among others. Rapid proliferation of internet application based business entities have been the primary driving force of this change.
This new internet economy is going to expand exponentially in the days to come as millions of new smartphone customers join the networks to experience internet for the first time.
Telecom is clearly morphing into a data-centric future, which is destined to throw up its unique set of opportunities and challenges. With our proactive investments in spectrum acquisition and network rollouts, which is effectively complemented by our customer centric approach, we are well positioned for a dominant play in this evolving marketplace.