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Is India's 4G Firebrand About to Target Cable?

India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, looks like he wants to conquer the country's cable TV sector as well as lead the 4G market.

Ambani runs corporate conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) , the oil and gas giant behind India's greenfield 4G operator RJio. (See RJio Sputters Into Lyf With 4G 'Launch' and RJio's Big Small Cells Vision.)

With RJio now ready to offer high-speed mobile broadband services across this vast country of 1.25 billion people, Ambani appears to have turned his attention to the pay-TV market.

According to this Reuters report, he now has plans to buy his way into the country's cable TV sector by spending up to $2 billion to acquire 20 million customers within three years, a move that could involve the acquisition of existing players such as Hathway Cable & Datacom Pvt. Ltd. and Den Networks.

India's cable market is highly fragmented, with thousands of small local players serving about 100 million cable TV customers, of which about 30% are digital TV service users, according to the All India Digital Cable Federation. India's cable sector is currently in the midst of its "Phase 3 and 4" digitization program that will convert nearly all of the country's analog cable TV connections to digital.

As with every major move in India, any such plans are likely to face significant regulatory, legal and bureaucratic hurdles, but Ambani has plenty of experience in building businesses in India in despite such challenges.

The news is being reported in India with a sibling rivalry angle: Mukesh Ambani's brother and business rival, Anil Ambani, runs rival mobile operator Reliance Comms, which looks set to merge with Aircel to create India's third-largest communications service provider. (See RCom-Aircel Fine-Tune Merger Terms.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

[email protected] 3/8/2016 | 7:28:42 AM
Will Ambani unify India's broadband experience? The combination of 4G and cable TV/broadband over new digital infrastryucture make sense for a heavy hitter like Ambani and RIL can afford it, even with oil prices being lower.

But... mobile is one thing, fixed lines (whether cable or not) is another thing altogether in India. that final wired connection to the building has always proven to be a problem.
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