Airtel could replicate its approach to Indian tower operations and dilute stakes to create an independent fibre company that leases out key infrastructure to potential mobile phone operator clients, analysts said.
The Sunil Mittal-owned telco, which confirmed Savargaonkar’s new role in an emailed response to ET’s queries, made an internal announcement to this effect last week.
Savargaonkar, who will continue to report to Gopal Vittal, Bharti Airtel’s CEO (India, South Asia), was the company’s director of networks, equivalent to chief technology officer, previously.
“Given the significant growth in data consumption in recent years, we believe a robust and independent infrastructure company that serves the growing need of fibre in the telecom industry is critical,” Vittal said in the internal communication, a copy of which was reviewed by ET.
Bharti Airtel is in the last stages of transferring its optical fibre cable network to a wholly-owned subsidiary, Telesonic Networks Ltd, by way of a slump sale. The company runs 246,000 route kilometres of optic fibre, which it is expanding aggressively to cater to surging data growth. “Fibre assets from Telesonic may eventually be transferred to this new subsidiary,” one of the sources said.
Nitin Soni, director, Asian corporates, at Fitch Ratings, said that it made sense to have a separate company that owns fibre. Airtel had previously formed a telecom tower joint venture — Indus Towers — with Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.
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