|Founded||In 1999 Founded By Chinnakannan Sivasankaran|
|Headquarters||Chennai, Tamilnadu, India|
|Products||Mobile telephony, Wireless broadband services|
|Revenue||US$ 1.159 billion (2012)|
|Parent||Maxis Communications (74%)|
Aircel group is an Indian mobile network operator headquartered in Chennai, which offers voice & data services ranging from postpaid and prepaid plans, 2G and 3G services, Broadband Wireless Access (BWA), Long Term Evolution (LTE) to Value-Added-Services (VAS). In 2006, Aircel was acquired by Malaysia’s biggest integrated communications service provider Maxis (Maxis Communication Berhard) and is a joint venture with Sindya Securities & Investments Pvt Ltd - Maxis holds 74% equity in the company.
Aircel commenced operations in 1999 by Chinnakannan Sivasankaran and today is the leading mobile operator in Tamil Nadu, Assam, North-East India and Chennai.
It is India’s fifth largest GSM mobile service provider and seventh largest mobile service provider (both GSM and CDMA) with a subscriber base of over 65.1 million. It has a market share of 7.33% among wireless operators (includes GSM, CDMA, and FWP operators) in the country.
Aircel has also obtained permission from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to provide international long distance (ILD) and national long distance (NLD) telephony services. It also has the largest service in Tamil Nadu.
Timeline and early history
Aircel started as a regional player in Tamil Nadu in 1999. Soon, it became the leading operator in Tamil Nadu. At one time, Aircel was the fastest growing operator in India. Because of this, it attracted foreign investments and Malaysian operator Maxis Communications bought a 74 percent stake in the company in 2005 from its Indian owner Chinnakannan Sivasankaran.
In 2010, the company bough 3G and wireless broadband (BWA) spectrum in 13 and 8 circles respectively in the 2010 spectrum auction. It paid US$ 1.44 billion ( 79.1 billion) for the 3G spectrum and US$ 0.76 billion ( 49.76 billion) for BWA. Of this, the company raised $0.88 billion ( 48.3 billion) from Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC and Barclays. It also took a $0.44 billion ( 24.2 billion) one-year bridge loan from HSBC, Punjab National Bank and Axis Bank. The company, as of November 2012[update], has around 1 million 3G customers. It is yet to launch its LTE network. Aircel expects to launch it in the first quarter of 2013.[dated info] 9716299928
3G and BWA
On 19 May 2010, the 3G spectrum auction in India ended. Aircel paid 6499.46 crores for spectrum in 13 circles – the least cost per circle compared to other operators. The circles it will provide 3G in are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, North East, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh (East) & Uttarakhand and West Bengal. On 11 June 2010, the broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum auction in India ended. Aircel paid 3438.01 crores for spectrum in eight circles, the second highest wins overall - after Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Infotel. The circles it has won spectrum are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, North East, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. It also has 3G spectrum in all these circles. Aircel has introduced new price plans for its consumers and are termed to be the cheapest in the country. Following the key players in 3G, Aircel also slashed its 3G tariff.
Aircel’s 3G service is currently available in the following cities and towns in 13 telecom circles:
†Kolkata is a metro circle and is not included in West Bengal circle, even though it is part of West Bengal state.
Aircel in recent press release said that the Company won't be launching 4G Services in the current year 2013. Aircel won BWA/4G spectrum in eight circles – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu (including Chennai), West Bengal, Bihar, Odisa, Assam, North-East, and Jammu & Kashmir. Aircel also holds 3G spectrum in these circles. However, the company will have to launch its 4G service before mid-2015. Under BWA sepctrum license terms, if BWA license holders fails to cover 50 per cent of the rural area by 2015, the spectrum could be withdrawn.
Aircel Business Solutions
Aircel Business Solutions (ABS), part of Aircel, sells enterprise solutions such as Multiprotocol Label Switching Virtual Private Networks (MPLS VPNs), Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and managed video services on wireless platforms including WiMAX.
Other business initiatives
Aircel on 27 May 2011 launched the Apple iPhone 4 apart from Bharti Airtel, which is one of the most popular smartphones in the contemporary world.
Telecom operator Aircel announced that its partnership with Wikipedia Foundation to offer free mobile Wikipedia access to its customers. The alliance is aimed at making knowledge available on Wikipedia accessible to all Aircel customers in both rural and urban areas for free. This initiative is a part of the foundation’s Wikipedia Zero Programme to reach mobile internet users around the World
As a part of a major re-organization in their operations, the company decided to halt operations in five telecom circles, namely Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala and Punjab. It also decided to cut 600 jobs. This is part of a slew of steps to cut costs and thereby make the company more efficient in the highly competitive Indian telecom market. As of November 2012, Aircel has closed down dealerships in Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, UP west and Gujarat. Only online recharge facility is available in these circles. Aircel still continues their operations in Rajasthan and Punjab as of November 2012. They have more than 26 lakh customers in Rajasthan circle and are adding about 1.4 lakh customers per month in this circle. As per the December 2012 subscription data published by TRAI, Aircel had lost about 2 million subscribers and its subscriber base stood at 65.1 million. Major loss in subscribers were from UP West, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Andhra Pradesh - which accounted for 75% of the subscribers lost in December 2012.
Sponsorships and brand ambassadors
Aircel is one of the sponsors of the Indian Premier League cricket team Chennai Super Kings and I-League side Shillong Lajong FC. It is also the major sponsors for the Chennai Open (the only ATP tennis tournament in India) and the Professional Golf Tour of India. Aircel also spearheads the Save the Tiger campaign for protecting India's tigers.
The brand ambassadors of Aircel include the Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Tamil actor Suriya. Aircel is also engaging with Mary Kom, the female boxer, Dhanush, another Tamil actor and Sameera Reddy, a Bollywood actress for their Celebrity Chat series.
Maxis, Aircel's majority stake holder at that time, raised 11.2 billion (USD 3.36 billion) for its shareholders (UTSB), making it the largest IPO in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Maxis has 74% stake and the remaining 26% is owned by Apollo Hospitals as Benami.
 Un Officially Malaysian entrepreneur T Ananda Krishnan’s Maxis Group, owns effective 99% of Aircel through Suneeta Reddy of Apollo Hospitals Group of India as Benami, Because Telecom regulations act do not allow foreign parties to own more than 74 percent in Indian mobile phone companies.
Interestingly, Ananda Krishnan, a Malaysian businessman of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, did not hide his 99 percent ownership from the Malasiyan stock exchange, Bursa Malaysia, in a March 2006 filing. Krishnan said: “With equity interest of 74 percent in Aircel and 100 percent subscription of cumulative redeemable non-convertible preference shares in Deccan Digital, this effectively gives the group 99.3 percent economic returns from the investment in Aircel.
’’While investigating C Sivasankaran’s allegation that Maran pressured him to sell his stake in Aircel to Maxis, the CBI stumbled upon the real shareholding pattern of Aircel. While 65 percent of the equity is held by Maxis directly, the balance 35 percent is held by Deccan Digital, in which Maxis (through subsidiaries) has 26 percent and Sindya Securities & Investment Pvt Ltd 74 percent.Sindya belongs to P Dwarakanath Reddy and Suneeta Reddy, who is Joint Managing Director of the Apollo Hospitals Group.With this equity structure.
Maxis gets an effective 74 percent holding in Aircel (65 percent directly, and an effective 9 percent through Deccan).But here’s the dicey part. While Sindhya paid Rs 34.17 crore for its 74 percent equity stake in Deccan, Maxis paid Rs 11.82 crore for the equity and also invested Rs 1,664 in the preference capital of Deccan. In short, the total investment of the Maxis Group in Aircel is a whopping Rs 7,880.8 crore against just Rs 34.17 crore by Sindya.
Controversies and acquisition rumours
Aircel is being investigated by CBI for alleged irregularities in the Maxis takeover. According to CBI, Aircel's previous owner C. Sivasankaran was forced to sell his stake to Maxis by the then Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran in 2005. As a result, Maxis did a quid pro quo investment of Rs. 5 billion in a DTH company owned by the Maran family.
There were also rumours in September 2012 that the Russian company Sistema was in talks to acquire Aircel. However, that hasn't been confirmed by either of the companies. Sistema is the parent company of MTS, which is a CDMA operator in India.
As a part of its cost cutting practices, Aircel started scaling down services in five circles. However, Aircel also shut down many cell sites which left many of its customers without coverage. Users had to travel to areas covered by Aircel in order to obtain a porting code.
- Telecommunications Statistics in India
- Maxis Communications
- Dayanidhi Maran
- Mobile network operators of India
- Aircel appoints Kaizad Heerjee as Chief Operating Officer
- Anup Vikal has been appointed as the chief financial officer by Aircel
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