Breakthrough in India

Ray Le Maistre
5/31/2012

11:35 AM -- India's government, after much procrastination, has at last approved the new National Telecom Policy (or NTP 2012), the first new set of rules for the telecom sector since 1999.

The move is significant not only in clarifying the situation regarding roaming and number portability between India's 22 circles (service areas), but also in setting new rules concerning spectrum sharing, manufacturing quotas, spectrum awards and much more. (See Cabinet Approves The NTP 2012.)

The hope is that this move, plus the anticipated final decisions about the auction process for the planned 2G spectrum allocation, will enable India's operators to make some short- and medium-term decisions about network, services and business strategy, something that has been put on hold while the new regulations were still in flux. If the operators can make some decisions then investments should ramp up again in the coming months and breathe some new life into was has been a stagnant market for the past six-to-nine months. (See India Suffers From Policy Hiatus.)

But ... the government needs to make sure every aspect of the policy is crystal clear. That will be essential for renewed investment, something the government wants and needs if it is to achieve its ambitious goal of delivering a voice and broadband connection to all of the country's 1.2 billion people within the next eight years or so. It has been a lack of clarity that has led to all of India's problems in the past few years, during which time the mobile market has grown by hundreds of millions of users. (See Mobile Line Count Tops 900M.)

Despite the general caution in the market, some progress has been made in recent months. Most notably, the country's mobile market leader, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), recently launched its first Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) services using its newly deployed Long Term Evolution Time Division Duplex (LTE TDD) capabilities and acquired a chunk of Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s 4G assets. (See Bharti Acquires 49% Stake In Qualcomm's 4G Venture, Bharti Launches 4G in Bengaluru and India Welcomes 4G Services.)

And to support those new services, Bharti has invested in IP-based backhaul capabilities, using technology from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), that will support its mobile and fixed broadband services. (See Bharti Goes With Alcalu For IPfication.)



— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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