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Bharti Airtel set to become global mobile superplayer

New Wireless Intelligence operator ranking sees Indian market leader enter top five

The sweeping scale of these pro forma changes in our operator-group ranking reflects the pace of the ever-increasing M&A activity we continue to see amongst what is already a highly-consolidated grouping of the world's largest operators. Interestingly, however, our study last year outlined that the top 25 reflected 64% of global market connections, a figure that remains unchanged in this latest data. This indicates that while the overall reach of these ‘super’ operators is growing, their effective market share remains stable.

For an enlarged Airtel Group, meanwhile, the key to success - aside from the challenge of obtaining approval - is that Airtel already has the experience of managing one the fastest growing markets in the world. We anticipate that there will be less of an immediate focus on network and infrastructure changes (although these will remain cost saving options) and more of a focus on ensuring they aren’t drawn into the same voice price war we now see in India. Given Airtel’s domestic market is in the midst of a next-generation rollout and calls for consolidation, managing existing operations whilst steering a pan-African purchase seems a daunting challenge. That said, a major opportunity for Airtel would be to transplant their Indian pricing model into some of the low-usage markets Zain occupies to drive usage quickly and garner market share.

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