IndiaWatch: Ramp-Ups & Roll-Outs

There's action aplenty in India (as ever!) as the established telcos seek out new business opportunities, and the newer mobile operators roll out services. (See A Guide to India's Telecom Market.)

Bharti Airtel courts apps developers
Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) has 1,000 developers signed up to its applications developer community, according to this Economic Times report.

The Airtel Open Developer Community provides developers with a software developer kit to create applications across the operator's mobile, Internet, and IPTV platforms, and promises access to a potential user base of over 100 million. (See Bharti Airtel Hits 100M.)

MTNL sets sights on international partner
Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) is seeking an experienced international partner to help it develop its 3G services, and has made approaches to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Cable and Wireless plc (NYSE: CWP), Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s Orange, and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), according to this report in The Times of India.

The report suggests that Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. (NYSE: HTX), and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) could also be in the frame as state-owned MTNL seeks to take advantage of being the only 3G operator in the massive metro circles of Mumbai and New Delhi.

Combined, these two circles had a total of 55.92 million mobile connections at the end of June, according to figures from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) , but earlier reports suggest that MTNL had only 400 3G subscribers at the beginning of June. See this Business Standard report for more.

A partnership with an experienced 3G operator could give MTNL a much needed boost ahead of the 3G auctions, which will introduce competition to the 3G market. (See IndiaWatch: 3G Auction Imminent and $7B Target for India's 3G Auctions.)

In related news, Russian operator Yota is in talks with MTNL and fellow state-owned carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) to offer WiMax-based services in India, according to this Thinkdigit.com report.

Operators unveil investments, roll out networks
As India's mobile market continues to grow by more than 10 million new lines each month, so the operators are investing in new network infrastructure and expanding their network capacities. (See BSNL Struggles for Subs in May.)

  • Idea Cellular Ltd. is to invest 10 billion Indian Rupees (US$204 million) on expanding its network in Tamil Nadir and will launch in a further three circles, including Kolkata. See this mynews report for more.

    Idea has also received the go-ahead from its shareholders to spin off its tower business so that it can merge with Indus Towers, the three-way joint venture it formed with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India , reports the Economic Times.

  • Tata Teleservices Ltd. 's GSM brand, Tata DoCoMo, has launched in the Karnataka circle with a pay-per-second tariff. This will reduce the cost of calling anywhere in India to 1 paise ($0.0002) per second, according to a report from CIOL Network News.

  • Loop Telecom Pvt. Ltd. has launched GSM services in Karnataka and Kerala, adding to its existing services in Tamil Nadu and Orissa, and expects to launch more soon. Silicon India has more.

  • S-Tel is to invest INR20 billion ($409 million) rolling out services in the rural North East circle but is unlikely to take advantage of its licenses in the major metro circles, despite having battled through the courts to secure them, according to the Economic Times.

    S-Tel is concentrating on rural rollouts and will save its money for 3G, according to P Swaminathan, president of Siva Ventures, who was cited in the report. Siva Ventures is the holding company of Sterling Group, which holds a 51 percent stake in S-Tel.

    — Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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