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India's Unitech Gears Up for Telecom

Unitech, an Indian real estate firm that was granted nationwide telecom licenses in January, has kick-started the process of creating a telecom unit now that it's receiving wireless spectrum from the government.

Unitech has poached Rohit Chandra from regional operator Aircel Ltd. , where he was executive director, and put him in charge of the new business as its CEO. The company said in a statement Monday that Chandra will "be responsible for providing strategic direction and operational focus to Unitech's telecom operations," which he'll help set up.

Ashok Sud, previously president of regulatory and corporate affairs at Tata Teleservices Ltd. , is also coming on board as president of corporate affairs.

Unitech's licenses were awarded to eight different subsidiaries, but it will pool them into a single telecom business. The company said in May that it's also applied for national and international long distance licenses that will allow it to route long-distance calls over its own network rather than paying other operators like Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) or Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) to carry them.

The firm also said in a note to the Bombay Stock Exchange Monday that it has been allocated GSM spectrum in the Karnataka circle, or service area, the fifth it's received frequency in since April. (See India Begins Allocating GSM Spectrum .)

With GSM spectrum now allocated in five of India's 22 license areas, the five companies that were given permission to enter the market are at various stages of setting up new operators. (See Indian Gov't Grants Mobile Licenses and A Guide to India's Telecom Operators.) Videocon, for example, recently indicated it expects to begin building its network in August. (See India's Videocon Plans Mobile Launch.)

Like Videocon, Unitech is looking to sell a stake in its new operator to help raise cash to finance the network rollout, which is why Chandra's tasks in establishing the company will include "a lead role in driving partnerships and strategic alliances."

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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