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Asia Watch: M&A, IPTV & Indian Delays

Ray Le Maistre
12/31/2009

While the European and North American markets continue to slumber for the festive period, there's plenty of action in Asia/Pacific, with acquisition activity in the mobile operator and applications markets, and a new TV service launch in China.

  • India's Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) is closing in on a majority stake in mobile operator Warid Bangladesh in an acquisition valued at $300 million, according to local reports.

  • KT Corp. is buying a 25 percent stake in Omnitel China, which provides content and applications to China's mobile operators, according to The Korea Times.
  • There are more problems at India's Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) , which has had to put its massive mobile network expansion plans on hold yet again while "allegations of irregularities" surrounding its negotiations with its intended infrastructure suppliers, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , are investigated, reports The Economic Times. BSNL has encountered multiple hurdles in its attempts to add more than 90 million lines of GSM capacity to its national network, and has been losing ground in the still rapidly expanding mobile services market as its expansion plans falter. (See BSNL Struggles for Subs in May, NSN Probes BSNL Bid Process, Huawei Touts $2B Deal From BSNL , A Guide to India's Telecom Market, and IndiaWatch: Tender Times at BSNL .)

  • The Indian mobile market is notorious for its delays, of course. There is still much speculation about the exact timing of the proposed auction of 3G and wireless broadband spectrum, which could take place at any time from late January onward, it seems. The introduction of mobile number portability, which was due to be implemented from the beginning of 2010, has been delayed by the Department of Telecommunications until March 31, reports The Economic Times.

  • China Central Television (CCTV), one of China's IPTV license holders, has officially launched its online TV service, CNTV, which it hopes will have an impact not only in its domestic market but overseas too, according to ChinaTechNews. (See China Set for IPTV Explosion.)

    The over-the-top service, which has been in pilot operation since late 2008, is designed to provide a selection of linear TV and on-demand content to users via fixed broadband and mobile connections. CCTV is one of seven companies to hold licenses for mobile TV in China. (See ChinaVision to Offer Mobile TV and Envivio Scores China Win.)

  • City Telecom (HK) Ltd. has applied for Hong Kong's third domestic free TV-broadcast license with the intention of supplementing its pay-IPTV service with free channels.

    City will use the existing fixed fiber network of its wholly owned subsidiary Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd. (HKBN) to deliver the additional service, and believes it can break even once it has invested HK$210 million (US$27.1 million) launching and delivering its broadband TV offering.

    The broadband-TV market is already very mature in Hong Kong, as HKBN, which has just added Disney channels to its bbTV service, competes with IPTV pioneer PCCW Ltd. (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008). (See Telecom Market Spotlight: Asia and PCCW: IPTV Demands Innovation.) — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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