Bharti Airtel Limited, also known as Airtel, is an Indian global telecommunications services company based in Delhi, India. It operates in 18 countries across South Asia and Africa, and also in the Channel Islands. Airtel provides GSM, 3G, 4G LTE, 4G+ mobile services, fixed line broadband and voice services depending upon the country of operation. Airtel had also rolled out its VoLTE technology across all Indian telecom circles. It is the third largest mobile network operator in India and the second largest mobile network operator in the world with over 293.79 million subscribers.   Airtel was named India's second most valuable brand in the first ever Brandz ranking by Millward Brown and WPP plc.
|Founded||7 July 1995|
|Founder||Sunil Bharti Mittal|
|Headquarters||Bharti Crescent, 1, Nelson Mandela Road, New Delhi, India|
|Revenue||₹807,802 million (US$12 billion) (2019)|
|₹−17,318 million (US$−250 million) (2019)|
|₹4,095 million (US$59 million) (2019)|
|Total assets||₹2,751,975 million (US$40 billion) (2019)|
|Members||383.37 million (June 2019)|
Number of employees
|Parent||Bharti Enterprises (64%)|
Airtel is credited with pioneering the business strategy of outsourcing all of its business operations except marketing, sales and finance and building the 'minutes factory' model of low cost and high volumes. The strategy has since been adopted by several operators. Airtel's equipment is provided and maintained by Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia Networks whereas IT support is provided by Amdocs. The transmission towers are maintained by subsidiaries and joint venture companies of Bharti including Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers in India. Ericsson agreed for the first time to be paid by the minute for installation and maintenance of their equipment rather than being paid up front, which allowed Airtel to provide low call rates of ₹1 (1.4¢ US)/minute.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Acquisitions and mergers
- 2 Airtel India
- 3 International presence
- 4 Joint ventures and agreements
- 5 Sponsorship
- 6 Banking
- 7 Signature tune
- 8 Controversies
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In 1984, Sunil Mittal started assembling push-button phones in India, which he earlier used to import from a Taiwan company, Kingtel, replacing the old fashioned, bulky rotary phones that were in use in the country then. Bharti Telecom Limited (BTL) was incorporated and entered into a technical tie up with Siemens AG of Germany for manufacture of electronic push button phones. By the early 1990s, Bharti was making fax machines, cordless phones and other telecom gear. He named his first push-button phones as 'Mitbrau'.
In 1992, he successfully bid for one of the four mobile phone network licences auctioned in India. One of the conditions for the Delhi cellular license was that the bidder have some experience as a telecom operator. So, Mittal clinched a deal with the French telecom group Vivendi. He was one of the first Indian entrepreneurs to identify the mobile telecom business as a major growth area. His plans were finally approved by the Government in 1994 and he launched services in Delhi in 1995, when Bharti Cellular Limited (BCL) was formed to offer cellular services under the brand name AirTel. Within a few years Bharti became the first telecom company to cross the 2 million mobile subscriber mark. Bharti also brought down the STD/ISD cellular rates in India under brand name 'Indiaone'.
In 1999, Bharti Enterprises acquired control of JT Holdings, and extended cellular operations to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In 2000, Bharti acquired control of Skycell Communications, in Chennai. In 2001, the company acquired control of Spice Cell in Calcutta. Bharti Enterprises went public in 2002, and the company was listed on Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange of India. In 2003, the cellular phone operations were re-branded under the single Airtel brand. In 2004, Bharti acquired control of Hexacom and entered Rajasthan. In 2005, Bharti extended its network to Andaman and Nicobar. This expansion allowed it to offer voice services all across India.
Airtel launched "Hello Tunes", a caller ring back tone service (CRBT), in July 2004 becoming the first operator in India to do so. The Airtel theme song, composed by A.R. Rahman, was the most popular tune in that year.
In May 2008, it emerged that Airtel was exploring the possibility of buying the MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company with coverage in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The Financial Times reported that Bharti was considering offering US$45 billion for a 100% stake in MTN, which would be the largest overseas acquisition ever by an Indian firm. However, both sides emphasise the tentative nature of the talks, while The Economist magazine noted, "If anything, Bharti would be marrying up," as MTN has more subscribers, higher revenues and broader geographic coverage. However, the talks fell apart as MTN Group tried to reverse the negotiations by making Bharti almost a subsidiary of the new company. In May 2009, Bharti Airtel again confirmed that it was in talks with MTN and the companies agreed to discuss the potential transaction exclusively by 31 July 2009. Talks eventually ended without agreement, some sources stating that this was due to opposition from the South African government.
In 2009, Bharti negotiated for its strategic partner Alcatel-Lucent to manage the network infrastructure for the fixed line business. Later, Bharti Airtel awarded the three-year contract to Alcatel-Lucent for setting up an Internet Protocol access network across the country. This would help consumers access internet at faster speed and high quality internet browsing on mobile handsets.
In 2009, Airtel launched its first international mobile network in Sri Lanka. In June 2010, Bhartil acquired the African business of Zain Telecom for $10.7 billion making it the largest ever acquisition by an Indian telecom firm. In 2012, Bharti tied up with Wal-Mart, the US retail giant, to start a number of retail stores across India. In 2014, Bharti planned to acquire Loop Mobile for ₹7 billion (US$100 million), but the deal was called off later.
On 18 November 2010, Airtel rebranded itself in India in the first phase of a global rebranding strategy. The company unveiled a new logo with 'airtel' written in lower case. Designed by London-based brand agency, The Brand Union, the new logo is the letter 'a' in lowercase, with 'airtel' written in lowercase under the logo. On 23 November 2010, Airtel's Africa operations were rebranded to 'airtel'. Sri Lanka followed on 28 November 2010 and on 20 December 2010, Warid Telecom rebranded to 'airtel' in Bangladesh.
Acquisitions and mergersEdit
MTN Group merger negotiationsEdit
In May 2008, it emerged that Airtel was exploring the possibility of buying the MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company with operations in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The Financial Times reported that Bharti was considering offering US$45 billion for a 100% stake in MTN, which would be the largest overseas acquisition ever by an Indian firm. However, both sides emphasised the tentative nature of the talks. The Economist magazine noted, "If anything, Bharti would be marrying up", as MTN had more subscribers, higher revenues and broader geographic coverage. However, the talks fell apart as MTN Group tried to reverse the negotiations by making Bharti almost a subsidiary of the new company.
In May 2009, Airtel confirmed that it was again in talks with MTN and both companies agreed to discuss the potential transaction exclusively by 31 July 2009. Airtel said "Bharti Airtel Ltd is pleased to announce that it has renewed its effort for a significant partnership with MTN Group". The exclusivity period was extended twice up to 30 September 2009. Talks eventually ended without agreement.
In Jun 2010, Bharti struck a deal to buy Zain's mobile operations in 15 African countries, in India's second biggest overseas acquisition after Tata Steel's $13 billion buy of Corus in 2007. Bharti Airtel completed its $10.7 billion acquisition of African operations from Kuwaiti firm on 8 June 2010, making Airtel the world's fifth largest wireless carrier by subscriber base. Airtel has reported that its revenues for the fourth quarter of 2010 grew by 53% to US$3.2 billion compared to the previous year, newly acquired Zain Africa division contributed US$911 million to the total. However, net profits dropped by 41% from US$470 million in 2009 to US$291 million 2010 due to a US$188 million increase in radio spectrum charges in India and an increase of US$106 million in debt interest.
Warid Bangladesh and RobiEdit
In 2010, Warid Telecom sold a majority 70.90% stake in the company to Bharti Airtel for US$300 million. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission approved the deal on 4 January 2010. Bharti Airtel Limited took management control of the company and its board, and rebranded the company's services under its own "airtel" brand from 20 December 2010. Warid Telecom sold its remaining 30% share to Bharti Airtel's Singapore-based concern Bharti Airtel Holdings Pte Limited in March 2013.
On 16 November 2016, airtel Bangladesh was merged into Robi as a product brand of Robi, where Robi Axiata Limited is the licensee of airtel brand in Bangladesh. Robi is a joint venture between Axiata Group holding 68.7%, Bharti Airtel holding 25%, and NTT DoCoMo Inc. holding 6.3%.
On 11 August 2010, Bharti Airtel announced that it would acquire 100% stake in Telecom Seychelles for US$62 million taking its global presence to 19 countries. Telecom Seychelles began operations in 1998 and operates 3G, Fixed Line, ship to shore services satellite telephony, among value added services like VSAT and Gateways for International Traffic across the Seychelles under the Airtel brand. The company has over 57% share of the mobile market of Seychelles. Airtel announced plans to invest US$10 million in its fixed and mobile telecoms network in the Seychelles over three years, whilst also participating in the Seychelles East Africa submarine cable (SEAS) project. The US$34 million SEAS project is aimed at improving the Seychelles' global connectivity by building a 2,000 km undersea high-speed link to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Wireless Business Services Private LimitedEdit
On 24 May 2012, Airtel announced an agreement to acquire a 49% stake in Wireless Business Services Private Limited (WBSPL) at an investment of ₹9.07 billion (US$130 million). WBSPL was a joint venture founded by Qualcomm, and held BWA spectrum in the telecom circles of Delhi, Haryana, Kerala and Mumbai. Qualcomm had spent US$1 billion to acquire BWA spectrum in those 4 circles. The deal gave Airtel a 4G presence in 18 circles. On 4 July 2013, Airtel announced that it had acquired an additional 2% equity share capital (making its stake 51%) in all the four BWA entities of Qualcomm, thereby making them its subsidiaries. On 18 October 2013, Airtel announced that it had acquired 100 percent equity shares of WBSPL for an undisclosed sum, making it a wholly owned subsidiary.
Airtel purchased Augere Wireless Broadband India Private Limited, a company that owned 4G spectrum in the Chhattisgarh-Madhya Pradesh circle for an undisclosed sum in December 2015. The Economic Times estimated Augere's spectrum to be worth ₹1.5 billion (US$22 million). On 16 February 2017, Airtel announced that the merger of Augere Wireless into Bharti Airtel Limited had been completed.
On 2 January 2017, The Economic Times reported that Airtel had entered into discussions with Telenor India to acquire the latter. On 23 February 2017, Airtel announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Telenor. As part of the deal, Airtel will acquire Telenor India's assets and customers in all seven telecom circles that the latter operates in - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) and Assam. Airtel will gain 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band from the Telenor acquisition. Business Standard reported that it was a no-cash deal, but would cost Airtel ₹1,600 crore over a 10-year period due to spectrum licence payments.
Tikona 4G spectrumEdit
On 23 March 2017, Economic Times reported that Airtel announced that it had acquired Tikona Digital Networks Pvt. Ltd to purchase the latter's 4G spectrum for approximately ₹1,600 crore. The deal also includes Tikona's 350 cellular sites in 5 circles. Tikona had purchased 20 MHz of 4G spectrum in the 2,300 MHz band in the 2010 auctions in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) and Rajasthan for ₹1,058 crore. Prior to the deal, Airtel did not hold any spectrum in the 2300 MHz band in UP (East), UP (West) and Rajasthan, and held 10 MHz each in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Tikona was founded in 2008 by former Reliance Communications executives Rajesh Tiwari and Prakash Bajpai. Its other investors include Goldman Sachs, Oak Capital, IFC and Everstone Capital. Tikona will retain its home broadband wireless business. Rajesh Tiwari, one of the cofounders of Tikona, though sought to put a spanner in the deal, slapping a legal notice against both the companies for not providing details of how the proceeds will be split among shareholders.
Telecom operator Bharti Airtel on 12 December 2017 said that it has signed an agreement with Millicom International Cellular S.A. to acquire 100 per cent stake in its Rwanda operation which operates under the brand name of Tigo Rwanda.
Bharti Airtel Limited. has entered into a definitive agreement with Millicom International Cellular S.A. (Millicom) under which Airtel Rwanda Limited will acquire 100 per cent equity interest in Tigo Rwanda Limited.
Tata Teleservices & Tata DocomoEdit
On October 2017, Bharti Airtel announced that it would acquire the consumer mobile businesses of Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL), Tata Docomo and Tata Teleservices Maharastra Ltd (TTML) in a debt-free cash-free deal. The deal will essentially be free for Airtel which will only incur TTSL's unpaid spectrum payment liability. TTSL will continue to operate its enterprise, fixed line and broadband businesses and its stake in tower company Viom Networks. The deal received approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in mid-November 2017. On 29 August 2018, Bharti Airtel, got its shareholders approval for the merger proposal with Tata Teleservices. On 17 January, 2019 NCLT Delhi gave final approval merger between Tata Docomo and Airtel.
Airtel's proposed acquisition of consumer mobile business of Tata Teleservices and Tata Docomo has got DoT's nod for further approval according to CCI. The Department of Telecom (DoT) has given approval for the merger of Tata Teleservices (TTSL) with Bharti Airtel, subject to the condition that the Bharti Airtel firm furnishes Rs 7,200 crore worth bank guarantee.  On November 2017, Tata Teleservices mobile customers had started transitioning to the Airtel's network. 
On July 1st 2019, The consumer mobile business of Tata Teleservices has become part of telecom operator Bharti Airtel. 
Airtel will absorb the Tata Sons-owned telco’s consumer mobile operations in 19 circles across India — 17 under Tata Teleservices and two under Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd. As part of the proposed agreement, Airtel will also take over a small portion of the unpaid spectrum liability of Tata Teleservices. The Bharti Airtel will get an additional 178.5 MHz of spectrum in three bands—1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 850 MHz—that are widely used for 4G, an area where Airtel is expanding fast to keep pace with Reliance Jio Infocomm. Airtel will also add about 13 million of Tata Tele’s mobile subscribers as of April 2019 to its nearly 322 million users. But most of Tata Tele’s mobile users are inactive, as per the regulator. 
Airtel India is the third largest provider after Jio Communications and Vodafone Idea Ltd of mobile telephony and second largest provider of fixed telephony in India, and is also a provider of broadband and subscription television services. It offers its telecom services under the airtel brand, and is headed by Sunil Bharti Mittal.
Under the Telemedia segment, Airtel provides broadband internet access through DSL, internet leased lines and MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) solutions[buzzword], as well as IPTV and fixed line telephone services. Until 18 September 2004, Bharti provided fixed line telephony and broadband services under the Touchtel brand. Bharti now provides all telecom services including fixed line services under the common brand airtel. As of june 2019, Airtel provides Telemedia services; in 99 cities. As on 30 june 2019, Airtel had 2.342 million broadband subscribers.
Airtel Broadband provides broadband and IPTV services. Airtel provides both capped as well as unlimited download plans. However, Airtel's unlimited plans are subject to free usage policy (FUP), which reduces speed after the customer crosses a certain data usage limit. In most of the plans, Airtel provides only 64KByte/second beyond FUP which is equal to other competitors tariffs. The maximum speed available for home users under the new V-Fiber program is upto 300mbps and with DSL is 16Mbit/s.
In May 2012, Airtel Broadband and some other Indian ISPs temporarily blocked file sharing websites such as vimeo.com, megavideo.com, and thepiratebay.se, without giving any legal information to customers.
In June 2011 the Economic Times reported that Telemedia Business was merged with Mobile, DTH and Business in three separate parts respectively.
The Digital television business provides Direct-to-Home (DTH) TV services across India under the brand name Airtel digital TV. It started services on 9 October 2008 and had about 16.027 million customers at the end of June 2019.
Mobile data serviceEdit
Services under mobile data include BlackBerry services; a web-enabled mobile email solution[buzzword] working on 'push technology'; a USB modem that helps in getting instant access to Internet and corporate applications; Airtel Data Card, which enables accessing the internet anytime; Easy Mail, a platform that provides access to personal/corporate e-mails independent of handset operating system; and application services that shorten the queues at the billing section, off-load the pressure on the billing staff and bring convenience to the user.
Airtel Business consists largely of six products: cloud and managed services, digital signage, NLD/ILD connectivity (VSAT/ MPLS/ IPLC and Ethernet products), Wi-Fi dongles,voice solutions[buzzword] (like toll free numbers, TracMate, and automated media reading) and conferencing solutions (VoIP, audio, video, and web conferencing) serving Industry verticals like BFSI, IT/ITeS, manufacturing, hospitality and government.
Airtel Business, the B2B arm of Bharti Airtel, has rolled out a first of its kind dedicated digital platform to serve the growing connectivity, communication and collaboration requirements of emerging businesses, including SMEs and startups. The digital platform will offer solutions[buzzword] to emerging enterprises to enable ease of business and faster time to market.
Beetel Teletech Ltd., a unit of Bharti Enterprises Ltd., on 18 August 2011, launched a ₹9,999 (US$140) 7-inch tablet in India based on Google Inc.'s Android operating system. The offering is intended to capitalise on the expected demand for cheap computing devices in the world's fastest-growing and second-largest mobile phone market.
Airtel is the one of the largest mobile operators in the world in terms of subscriber base and has a commercial presence in 18 countries and the Channel Islands,
Its area of operations include:
- The Indian Subcontinent:
- Airtel Africa, which operates in 15 African countries:
- The British Crown Dependency islands of Jersey and Guernsey, under the brand name Airtel-Vodafone, through an agreement with Vodafone.
Airtel operates in the following countries:
|Bangladesh||Robi||Airtel Bangladesh was merged into Robi Axiata Limited in which Bharti Airtel holds a 25% stake.|
|Chad||airtel Chad||Airtel Chad is the No. 1 operator with 69% market share.|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||airtel DRC||Airtel is the market leader with almost 5 million customers at the end of 2010.|
|Gabon||airtel Gabon||Airtel Gabon has 829,000 customers and its market share stood at 61%.|
|Ghana||airteltigo||Airtel Ghana merged with Tigo to form airteltigo in 2017.|
|India||airtel India||Airtel is the second largest operator with almost 280.3 million customers as of November 2018.|
|Kenya||Airtel Kenya||Airtel Kenya is the second largest operator and has 8.6 million subscribers.|
|Madagascar||airtel Madagascar||Airtel is the market leader in Madagascar with 39% market share and 2.5 million customers.|
|Malawi||airtel Malawi||Airtel Malawi is the market leader with a market share of 72%.|
|Niger||airtel Niger||Airtel Niger is the market leader with a 68% market share.|
|Republic of the Congo||airtel Congo B||Airtel Congo is the market leader with a 55% market share.|
|Rwanda||airtel Rwanda||Airtel launched services in Rwanda on 30 March 2012.|
|Seychelles||airtel Seychelles||Airtel is the leading comprehensive telecommunications services providers with over 55% market share of mobile market in Seychelles.|
|Sri Lanka||airtel Sri Lanka||Airtel Sri Lanka commenced operations on 12 January 2009. It had about 1.8 million mobile customers at the end of 2010.|
|Tanzania||airtel Tanzania||Airtel Tanzania is the market leader with a 38% market share.|
|Uganda||airtel Uganda||Airtel Uganda stands as the No. 2 operator with a market share of 38%.|
|Zambia||airtel Zambia||Airtel Zambia is the market leader with 69% market share.|
|Channel Islands† : Jersey
|Airtel-Vodafone||Airtel operates in the Channel Islands under the brand name Airtel–Vodafone through an agreement with Vodafone.|
†Jersey and Guernsey are British Crown Dependencies. They are not independent countries. Therefore, Airtel's countries of operation is considered to be 19.
Airtel Africa is a subsidiary of Indian telecommunications company Airtel, that operates in 15 countries across Africa. It operates a GSM network in all countries, providing 2G or 3G depending upon the country of operation.
On 11 August 2010, Bharti Airtel announced that it would acquire Telecom Seychelles for US$62 million.
On 15 August 2017, Bharti Airtel and Milicom's Tigo in Ghana merge to form new company AirtelTigo.
Sale to OrangeEdit
On 13 January 2016, France-based Orange SA and Bharti Airtel inked a deal to sell Airtel's operations in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone to Orange. On 19 July 2016, Airtel completed the deal.
airtel Bangladesh Ltd. was a GSM-based cellular operator in Bangladesh. Airtel was the sixth mobile phone carrier to enter the Bangladesh market, and originally launched commercial operations under the brand name "Warid Telecom" on 10 May 2007. Warid Telecom International LLC, an Abu Dhabi–based consortium, sold a majority 70% stake in the company to India's Bharti Airtel Limited for US$300 million.
On 16 November 2016, airtel Bangladesh was merged into Robi as a product brand of Robi Axiata, where Robi Axiata Limited is the Licensee of airtel Brand in Bangladesh. Robi at present is a joint venture between Axiata Group of Malaysia, Bharti Airtel, of India and NTT Docomo Inc., of Japan. Axiata holds 68.7% controlling stake in the entity, Bharti holds 25% while the remaining 6.3% is held by NTT Docomo of Japan.
Bharti Airtel Lanka (Pvt) Ltd is a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel Limited. Bharti Airtel has been featured in Forbes Asia's Fab 50 list, rated amongst the best performing companies in the world in the BusinessWeek IT 100 list 2007, and voted as India's most innovative company in a survey by the Wall Street Journal,
Airtel Lanka commenced commercial operations of services on 13 January 2009. Granted a licence in 2007 in accordance with the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Act No. 25 of 1991, it is also a registered company under the Board of Investment Sri Lanka. Under the license, the company provides digital mobile services to Sri Lanka. This is inclusive of voice telephony, voicemail, data services and GSM-based services. All of these services are provided under the airtel brand.
Channel Islands: Jersey and GuernseyEdit
On 1 May 2007, Jersey Airtel and Guernsey Airtel, both wholly owned subsidiaries of the Bharti Group, announced they would launch mobile services in the British Crown Dependency islands of Jersey and Guernsey under the brand name Airtel-Vodafone after signing an agreement with Vodafone. Airtel-Vodafone operates a 3G network in Jersey and Guernsey.
Bharti Airtel has about 303.08 million subscribers worldwide—264.58 million in India and South Asia and 50.949 million in Africa as of December 2011. The numbers include mobile services subscribers in 19 countries and Indian Telemedia services and Digital services subscribers.
One Network is a mobile phone network that allows Airtel customers to use the service in a number of countries at the same price as their home network. Customers can place outgoing calls at the same rate as their local network, and incoming calls are free. As of 2014[update], the service is available in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Ghana, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia only for International roamers from Airtel Africa
Joint ventures and agreementsEdit
On 1 May 2007, Jersey Airtel and Guernsey Airtel, both wholly owned subsidiaries of the Bharti Group, announced they would launch mobile services in the British Crown Dependency islands of Jersey and Guernsey under the brand name Airtel-Vodafone after signing an agreement with Vodafone. Airtel-Vodafone operates a 3G network in Jersey and Guernsey.
In July 2011, Bharti signed a five-year agreement with Ericsson, who will manage and optimise Airtel's mobile networks in Africa. Ericsson will modernise and upgrade Airtel's mobile networks in Africa with the latest technology including its multi standard RBS 6000 base station. As part of the modernisation, Ericsson will also provide technology consulting, network planning & design and network deployment. Ericsson has been the managed services and network technology partner in the Asian operations.
On 9 May 2009 Airtel signed a major deal with Manchester United. As a result of the deal, Airtel had the rights to broadcast the matches played by the team to its customers.
In collaboration with Kotak Mahindra Bank, Airtel has started Airtel Bank, targeting it mobile customers.
The signature tune of Airtel is composed by Indian musician A. R. Rahman. The tune became hugely popular and is the world's most downloaded mobile music, with over 150 million downloads. Rahman along with Anu Malik re-used the same tune in a 2004 Kannada movie Love. A new version of the song was released on 18 November 2010, as part of the rebranding of the company. This version was also composed by Rahman.
Net neutrality debateEdit
In February 2014, Gopal Vittal, CEO of Airtel's India operations, said that companies offering free messaging apps like Skype, Line and Whatsapp should be regulated similar to telecom operators. In August 2014, TRAI rejected a proposal from telecom companies to make messaging application firms share part of their revenue with the carriers or the government. In November 2014, TRAI began investigating if Airtel was implementing preferential access by offering special Internet packs which allowed WhatsApp and Facebook data at rates which were lower than its standard data rates. The statements of Chua Sock Koong, Group CEO of Singtel and also shareholder (32.15%) of Bharti Airtel share similar statements about the Anti-Net Neutrality position.
In December 2014, Airtel changed its service terms for 2G and 3G data packs so that VoIP data was excluded from the set amount of free data. A standard data charge of 4 paise (0.058¢ US) per 10 KB for 3G service and 10 paise (0.14¢ US) per 10 KB (more than ₹10,000 (US$140) for 1GB) for 2G service was levied on VoIP data. A few days later Airtel announced a separated internet pack for VoIP apps, it offered 75 MB for ₹75 (US$1.10) with a validity of 28 days. The TRAI chief Rahul Khullar said that Airtel cannot be held responsible for violating net neutrality because India has no regulation that demands net neutrality. Airtel's move faced criticism on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Later on 29 December 2014, Airtel announced that it would not be implementing planned changes, pointing out that there were reports that TRAI would be soon releasing a consultation paper on the issue.
In April 2015, Airtel announced the "Airtel Zero" scheme. Under the scheme, app firms will sign a contract and Airtel will provide the apps for free to its customers. The reports of Flipkart, an e-commerce firm, joining the "Airtel Zero" scheme drew negative response. People began to give the one-star rating to its app on Google Play. Following the protest Flipkart decided to pull out of Airtel Zero. The e-commerce giant confirmed the news in an official statement, saying, "We will be walking away from the ongoing discussions with Airtel for their platform Airtel Zero.
In October 2016, India's telecom regulator TRAI recommended imposing a combined penalty of ₹3,050 crore (equivalent to ₹33 billion or US$470 million in 2018) on three mobile network operators — Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular — for denying interconnection to Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), the latest entrant into India’s telecom service.
eKYC licence suspensionEdit
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) suspended Bharti Airtel and Airtel Payments Bank Limited's licence for eKYC of Aadhar on 16 December 2017, following complaints from customers that their accounts were being opened without their consent. Some even received their LPG subsidies in their Airtel Payment Bank accounts.
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