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This article is about the mobile network operator. For the comic book company, see Aircel Comics. For other uses, see Air cell.
Joint venture
Industry Telecommunications
Founded In 1999 Founded By Chinnakannan Sivasankaran
Headquarters Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Key people

Kaizad Heerjee, CEO[1]

Anup Vikal, CFO[2]
Products Mobile telephony, wireless broadband services
Revenue US$ Increase 1.159 billion (2012)[3]
Members 8.01 crore [4] (February 2015)
Parent Maxis Communications (74%)[5]
Slogan The joy of a little extra

Aircel is an Indian mobile network operator headquartered in Chennai, which offers voice and 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 and Investments Pvt Ltd – Maxis holds 74% equity in the company.[5]

Aircel commenced operations in 1999 by Chinnakannan Sivasankaran and today is the leading mobile operator in Tamil Nadu, Assam, Odisha, North-East India and Chennai. It is India's fifth-largest GSM mobile service provider,[6] with a subscriber base of over 80.01 million. It has a market share of 8% among wireless operators in the country.[7]

Aircel 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.

Aircel became 5th largest telecom service provider in January 15 after the announcement of telecom minister that public operator BSNL lost so many customers and became 6th largest.

Aircel 79.62 million BSNL 78.12 million Tata Docomo 68 million (January 15)

Timeline and early history[edit]

Aircel started as a regional player in Tamil Nadu in 1999.[8] Soon, it became the leading operator in Tamil Nadu. At one time, Aircel was the fastest growing operator in India.[8] 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 bought 3G and wireless broadband (BWA) spectrum in 13 and 8 circles respectively in the 2010 spectrum auction.[8] It paid US$1.44 billion ( 79.1 billion) for the 3G spectrum and US$0.76 billion ( 49.76 billion) for BWA.[8] 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.[8] The company, as of November 2012, has around 5 million 3G customers.Aircel launched its 4G LTE the first quarter of 2015 in 5 Circles out of 8 circles where it has license to provide 4G LTE on 2300 MHz band but it is still available to Business users and not for personal users.

AIRCEL also bagged 15 MHz spectrum on 1800 MHz band to provide future use (4G on 1800 MHz ) for TamilNadu .[9][dated info]

Core business[edit]


On 19 May 2010, the 3G spectrum auction in India ended. Aircel paid 65,000 million for spectrum in 13 circles: 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.[10]

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.[11]


On 11 June 2010, the broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum auction in India ended. Aircel paid 34380 million for spectrum in eight circles: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, North East, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.[12] It also has 3G spectrum in all these circles.

Aircel has launched 4G services in Tamil Nadu and Jammu & Kashmir in August 2014, becoming the only private telecom operator to offer all the three existing technologies of 2G, 3G and 4G in these markets.[13]

Chinese equipment maker ZTE announced on 30 December 2013, that it had won a contract to deploy a 4G broadband network based on LTE technology for Aircel. The LTE network will be launched in Tamil Nadu, and expand to a few other business critical circles in the first stage.[14][15] On 16 July 2014, it launched 4G services in four circles Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Odisha.[16]

Aircel Business Solutions[edit]

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[edit]

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.[17]

Telecom operator Aircel announced that its partnership with Wikimedia 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[18] But from 2 March 2015, subscribers of Aircel no longer can access Wikipedia Zero.

Cost cutting[edit]

As a part of a major re-organization in its operations, the company decided to halt operations in five telecom circles, namely Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala and Punjab.In 2015 April 15 Aircel relaunched its service in kerala

[19] It also decided to cut 600 jobs.[20] This is part of a series 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 its operations in Rajasthan and Punjab as of November 2012. It has more than 2.6 million customers in Rajasthan circle and is adding about 140,000 customers per month in this circle.

As per the January 2015 subscription data published by TRAI, Aircel had a subscriber base stood at 79 million.[21]

Sponsorships and brand ambassadors[edit]

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.[22]

It was announced on 22 Oct 2014 that Aircel will be the principal sponsor for Atlético de Kolkata FC of the Indian Super League.


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, Southeast Asia and Latin America.[citation needed] Maxis has 74% stake and the remaining 26% is owned by Apollo Hospitals.[citation needed]

Controversies and acquisition rumours[edit]

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.[23]

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.[24] Sistema is the parent company of MTS, which is a CDMA operator in India.

Aircel was one among seven operators to receive notices from the Department of Telecommunications for not meeting radiation norms in their base tower stations in September 2012.[25]

As a part of its cost cutting practices, Aircel started scaling down services in five circles. However, Aircel also shut down many cell sites[where?] which left many of its customers without coverage. Users had to travel to areas covered by Aircel in order to obtain a porting code.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Anup Vikal has been appointed as the chief financial officer by Aircel
  3. ^ "Aircel: Banking on the Future". Voice & Data. 24 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Mobile subscriber base now all time high at 97 crore". Retrieved 2015-02-08. 
  5. ^ a b "The Star - Business - Maxis owns 74% of Aircel". 29 August 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "Drop in India telecom subscriber base". 10 September 2012. 
  7. ^ COAI Telecom Subscription Data - February 2015]
  8. ^ a b c d e "Aicel: What the future holds". Light Reading India. 15 September 2012. 
  9. ^ "Aircel to trial next-gen hotspots". Light Reading India. 26 June 2012. 
  10. ^ "India’s 3G Auction Ends; Operator And Circle-Wise Results". Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "Aircel cuts 3G tariffs in India". The Times Of India. 5 June 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  12. ^ Pahwa, Nikhil (11 June 2010). "India's Broadband Wireless Auction Ends; Operator & Circlewise Results". Medianama (Delhi). Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "Aircel launches 4G services in Tamil Nadu, Jammu & Kashmir". Times Of India. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "ZTE bags 4G contract from Aircel". The Hindu BusinessLine (Chennai). 30 December 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  15. ^ "Aircel selects ZTE for 4G network rollout". The Times of India (Mumbai). 30 December 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "Aircel launches First 4G Mobile Services in Bihar". IANS. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  17. ^ "• Aircel •". Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  18. ^ Sreejith RS
  19. ^ "Aircel to withdraw from 5 circles". Daily News and Analysis. 13 October 2012. 
  20. ^ "Aircel to cut 600 jobs". Times of India. 13 October 2012. 
  21. ^ TRAI Telecom Subscription Data - December 2012
  22. ^ "Aicel: What the future holds (Page 3)". Light Reading India. 15 September 2012. 
  23. ^ "Maran-Maxis deal". Times of India. 27 July 2012. 
  24. ^ "Sistema to acquire Aircel?". Times of India. 14 September 2012. 
  25. ^ "Aircel gets DoT notice". Times of India. 14 September 2012. 
  26. ^ "Aircel network closed". Retrieved 21 May 2013. 

External links[edit]