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May 15, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment Tuesday said it had given approval for India’s largest publicly-listed telecom firm, Bharti Airtel, to be the island’s fifth mobile phone operator with an investment of 150 million dollars.

Airtel is subsidiary of Bharti Enterprises which has interests in telecom services, equipment manufacture and export, agricultural exports and retail shopping stores. Airtel CEO Narendra Gupta says the firm sees a lot of potential in Sir Lanka’s mobile market as the overall penetration rate is still a low 20 percent despite the presence of three fixed line and four mobile operators.

“The initial investment proposal is 150 million dollars and we plan to cover the entire country (with the service),” Gupta said following the signing of the BOI documents.

The firm, having mobile, broadband and telephone and enterprise services, hopes to use infrastructure of the other telecom companies to gain coverage in the country.

Gupta said the firm has already received regulatory approval to offer second and third generation (2G and 3G) services.

3G has higher bandwith than 2G allowing users to browse the internet on their phones and watch video and listen to radio compared with the older 2G te