Sunil Mittal Says It’ll Be Tragic If India’s Left With Just Two Private Telecom Firms

Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

Sunil Mittal Says It’ll Be Tragic If India’s Left With Just Two Private Telecom Firms

Bharti Airtel Ltd. Chairman Sunil Mittal has said India’s telecom sector needs competition and for that the existing three network operators need to survive.

“India’s a very large country and it deserves to have three private sector players.” Mittal said during the Qatar Economic Forum. “We have gone down from 12 operators to two-and-a-half now. Will it go down to two? In my view, that would be tragic.”

India’s telecom pie being shared mainly by three operators after the spate of consolidation seen in the past decade. Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. is India’s largest network followed by Mittal’s Airtel that has been steadily gaining market share. Vodafone Idea Ltd. meanwhile has been hanging by a thread, with senior executives warning in the past that it may slip into bankruptcy.

The telecom industry magnate said for companies to stay relevant they will have to reinvent and seek solutions beyond just 5G to ensure underserved regions are provided network coverage.

“5G is more for industrial applications, autonomous cars, management of drones and robotic surgeries. So I think we will have to find other ways and thankfully there is technology at hand to do that,” he said. “Radio networks are going deeper but still there are places which can’t be served by radio. We’ll have to go from space to serve them.”

Mittal has already made a big, bold bet towards that plan. In July last year, his firm Bharti Enterprises Ltd. led a U.K. government consortium into buying bankrupt satellite company OneWeb.

“OneWeb is going to be one of the first two leo constellations in space serving every square inch of the world,” he said. “Imagine a telecom network beaming out of space with 648 satellites and covering the entire globe in one hour and 19 minutes. We will now create the magic of serving those who remain unconnected.”

Mittal said the company hopes to start providing service by next year.

Watch Mittal’s speech here:

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