Telecom Roundup: BSNL’s $10Bn IPO, Airtel Live on Nokia..and More

So much happening in the telco industry!

RCom launches GSM Service in Delhi

RCom has soft launched GSM service in Delhi and the service is currently being rolled out to 1000 Reliance employees. The commercial launch will commence soon and Reliance might hire passive infrastructure from another group company Reliance Infratel which owns the tower business of the CDMA company.[ET]

It’d be interesting to watch whether RCom can disrupt the ever growing (GSM adds almost 7mn customers a month).

BSNL’s $10Billion IPO Plans

BSNL board has cleared $10bn IPO plans but the company is facing stiff resistance from it’s employee union.

The unions are against the BSNL management’s contention that listing is necessary for expansion and grant of navaratna status. “It is also decided that if the government moves with the IPO proposal, the entire BSNL workforce of three lakh will get into direct action, including indefinite strike. Other PSUs, including HAL, have been granted navaratna status without listing. As such, the arguments put forth for IPO in BSNL are a ploy to disinvest BSNL and gradually privatise it like Videsh Sanchar Nigam (VSNL) [ET]

BSNL will sell 10% stake in IPO that will fetch Rs 40,000 crore @ valuation of $100 Bn (Airtel’s current valuation is $37 billion).

Airtel Live on Nokia Phones

Airtel is talking to major handset manufacturers (including Nokia) to embed it’s VAS application, Airtel Live. The company wants to pre-load its Airtel Live platform as an icon in the handsets which the vendors will sell in India.

The strategy is two-fold: primarily, to increase VAS revenue (which currently stands @ 10%), and secondly, to increase brand awareness (even if you are not using Airtel connection, the icon will still be present, though inactive).

I am sure other manufacturers will take a note of this and either follow a similar route or resist Airtel’s moves.

MTNL to begin 3G service by Nov 2008

MTNL is all set to roll out it’s 3G service by Nov 2008 and is waiting for formal allocation of network from the govt. Both MTNL and BSNL will be allocated one block each in Delhi/Mumbai and rest of the country respectively.[source]

WiMAX Updates

Govt. has asked operators to return the WiMAX spectrum and that has angered the ISPs. Govt. earlier allotted the spectrum in 2003 to 7 players (Bharti, R-Com, HCL Infinet, Sify and Spectranet) and now plans to auction the  2.5GHz spectrum @ Rs. 550 crore.

It’s like changing the rules of the game just when a match is going to start. It will only lead to increase in valuations of universal access licence holders (UASL) or the telecom operators, who will hoard the WiMAX spectrum. [ET]

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