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Aircel starts GSM services, tariff may dip
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NEW DELHI: Aircel launched its GSM services in Delhi on Wednesday to become the 7th operator to fight for market share in a city that boasts of both the highest per capita income in India after Chandigarh and Goa as well as a teledensity touching 90%.

Its entry promises to create some excitement for customers with attractive tariff plans that will be valid for a year and a claim to a superior network. With new entrants pouring into the market, Delhi's other six mobile operators Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, MTNL, Tatas and Reliance may also be forced to improve their tariff plans in days ahead.

For starters, Aircel is rewarding usage by offering a lifetime validity scheme for prepaid mobile customers that allows users to make local calls at Rs 1 for the first minute, 60 paise for the second minute and just 40 paise from the third minute onwards.

Aircel is targeting potential customers from all the major segments - business, corporate, youth/students and migrant population from North-East, Bengal, Bihar and UP.

Aircel's business users can call and message local Aircel numbers for free while the STD Aircel to Aircel tariff will be just 50 paise.

According to Sandip Das, director Aircel, the company has already spent/committed $5 billion for nation-wide capex rollouts through 2009 while a total of $10 billion will be invested by 2011.

"We have raised $1.8 billion through debt and the balance will be raised through a mix of debt and equity", he said.

Delhi is Aircel's 14th circle with the launch of 4 more circles to conclude by April. "The entire 23-circle rollout should be possible in 2 years. However, if we dont rollout all the networks ourselves", it could be sooner, Das told ToI.

Aircel, a joint venture between Maxis Communications Berhad (Malaysia) and Apollo Hospital Enterprise Ltd, with Maxis holding 74% stake, has also expressed interest in listing the firm.

"We may look at a public offer once the economy looks up," Das said.

Despite the adverse economic and financial climate, Das said Aircel still has the appetite to bid for 3G spectrum at a base price of Rs 2,020 crore.

The company, which has 17 million subscribers hopes to touch 30 million subscribers by the end of 2009.

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