Airtel to start Sri Lanka operations by year-end

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New Delhi, Sept 11: Country's leading telecom operator Bharti Airtel on Thursday, Sep 11 said it expects to start its operations in Sri Lanka by the end of this calendar year, despite the delay in getting interconnection from the local operators there.

''Discussions are going on with the Sri Lankan telecom regulator and the existing operators there relating to the interconnection issue. It should be sorted out shortly,'' Bharti Airtel CEO and Joint Managing Director Manoj Kohli told reporters here. ''We should be in a position to start our operations there before 2008. It is as per our schedule,'' he added. Earlier, Bharti Airtel President (Mobility) Sanjay Kapoor had said incumbent operators in Lanka are not giving interconnections to the company, which is anticompetitive in nature.

Responding to this, the four Sri Lankan operators had issued a joint statement yesterday terming Bharti's allegations as false. The four operators--Dialog, Hutch, Mobitel and Tigo lashed out at Bharti Airtel on being accused that they are preventing the company's entry into the island by not providing interconnection on the same terms.

''As strong believers in competition and the resulting dividends to consumers and market growth, Sri Lanka's mobile operators welcome additional competition,'' the joint statement had said. Terming Bharti's accusation as misleading, the statement added, ''distractions in the form of inter-operator aspersions in particular those which are misleading can only serve to disrupt an industry, which is a regional leader and can serve to undo the good work carried out by regulators and investors alike."

UNI

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