Bharti Airtel known for innovative business models in running wireless Operations is planning to join hands with other tier-2 telecom operators in Africa (where it acquired Zain’s operations) to share each other’s radio access networks. If true, this would be directionally positive, enabling Bharti to (1) expand its network more rapidly (removing a current competitive disadvantage) and (2) lower its capex and opex. No additional details were provided.

Is Active Infrastructure / Radio Access Network Sharing Positive / Negative ?
Radio Accesses Network sharing has often been considered a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows for capex and opex savings but, on the other hand it takes away operator independence and could limit Bharti’s ability to expand subscribers and services. Consequently, this would also be the first time that Bharti took up active sharing on such a large format and scale.

Wireless coverage the heart of Bharti’s game plan in Africa?
Bharti has clearly suggested that it plans to replicate its minute factory model in Africa, and this will not be possible without decent network coverage. The next game plan likely to be pursued by Bharti, in our view, would be to become aggressive on on-net calling and to wait for declines to happen on termination charges before it can attempt becoming aggressive on off-net pricing as well. Bharti may gradually attempt to explore elasticity on on-net calling and we believe coverage ramp-up would bring market share gains.

We wish Manoj Kohli [CEO, Bharti Airtel International Operations] and his team very best of success in their Africa Safari.
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