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IndiaWatch: Money Matters

Cash is King today, as we catch up on some of the latest developments in the Indian telecom market.

Call costs cut
India's operators have the chance to cut their domestic voice tariffs from April 1 after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announced a 33 percent cut in voice termination rates for all domestic calls (fixed and mobile).

The interconnect charge is to drop to 0.2 Indian Rupees from INR0.3 (0.4 U.S. cents from 0.6) at the start of next month.

The regulator also noted that termination fees will be the same for 3G voice calls as for 2G calls. At first, that will apply only to state-owned operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) , as all other 3G hopefuls will be without the appropriate spectrum until after the delayed auction. (See Indian Operator Expects Lengthy 3G Delay .)

At the same time, the TRAI has raised the tariff that international operators will be charged to terminate a call on an Indian operator's network. That charge will rise to INR0.4 from INR0.3 (0.8 U.S. cents from 0.6 U.S. cents). The regulator is hoping the operators will pass on the benefits they will see from higher termination fees by cutting outgoing international call tariffs.

Satyam seeks investor
Troubled IT services giant Satyam Computer Services Ltd. (NYSE: SAY) has begun a "competitive bidding process" in an effort to find an investor willing to take a 51 percent stake in the company. (See Satyam Invites Bids.)

Satyam has been in limbo since its chairman fessed up to accounting fraud that left a $1 billion hole in the company's accounts. (See Fessing Up in India.)

With India still a hotbed of technology development, Satyam, one of India's top four IT services firms, could be an attractive target for any of the other major Indian players, including Infosys Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: INFY), Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. , Tech Mahindra Ltd. , and Wipro Ltd. (NYSE: WIT). (See Who Does What: Outsourcing to India.)

Satyam had about 53,000 staff as of September 2008, and it counts vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) among its customers. Prior to the scandal, the company had forecast revenues of about $2.5 billion for its current fiscal year (ending March 2009).

Interested bidders have until 5:00 p.m. local time on Thursday, March 12, to register their interest.

Satyam's stock is up nearly 5 percent today to $1.79 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) , giving the firm a market capitalization of about $600 million. Prior to the scandal the shares were worth $9.35.

Power to the network
Power Grid Corp of India Ltd., which operates a national transport network by running optical cables along its electricity pylons, is set to invest INR12 billion ($231 million) in its telecom infrastructure during the next three years, according to this report from India's DNA news site.

What's interesting about the report, which cites the company's general manager for telecom, is that it suggests that Power Grid -- which calls its telecom division PowerTel -- will enhance its network to support video transport and effectively offer content delivery network (CDN) services to Indian TV broadcasters and any other companies needing to stream video.

The power firm had not yet responded to questions from Light Reading as this article was published.

Other recent news of interest from India includes:

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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