Doordarshan will be available on Nokia handsets in India

Public broadcaster in India Prasar Bharti and world's largest mobile phone maker Nokia are all set to start a mobile TV pilot project in Indian metro cities, which will enable cellular phone users watch Doordarshan channels on their handsets. Nokia India has entered into a pilot tender with DD to launch the service, which would make DD channels available on select high-end Nokia handset models. During the pilot phase, Doordarshan will test the reception quality of the broadcast coverage. Attendant things like a revenue structure or advertising opportunities will come later.

Nokia's N92 series of handsets are capable of catching television signals. Nokia officials said it is for Doordarshan, which has put up a mobile television platform to set a time frame about commercial launch of their TV on Mobile. The company has N92- the first DVBH (digital video broadcast handheld) device. Adoption of mobile TV will ultimately give way to a more personal and private TV experience than that of traditional broadcast TV, with big implications for users, content providers and advertisers.

CAOI demands 50% cut in ADC

Cellular operators have urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to reduce Access Deficit Charge by 50% to Rs 1,600 crore for 2007-08 . In their communication to Trai, COAI, the body representing all GSM operators, has demanded that the incidence of ADC should be completely removed from the domestic consumers, and for 2007-08 , this levy be recovered only from incoming international calls.

Currently ADC (the levy paid by all telecom operators to state-owned BSNL to sustain its rural operations) is charged on all STD, ISD and also on incoming international calls. Operators pay 1.5% of the annual aggregate gross revenues (AGR), Rs 1.60 per minute for all incoming international calls to India and Rs 0.80 per minute for every outgoing ISD call, towards ADC.

Justifying the demand, COAI has represented that as per Trai’s estimates, India will receive 11,376 million minutes of incoming international calls 2006-07 which was a growth of 47% over the previous year. If the same growth rate was maintained, incoming ILD traffic for 2007-08 will be at least around 16,745 million minutes. On this basis, CAOI has projected that an ADC of Rs 1 per minute on incoming ILD calls will be sufficient to meet the ADC requirements for 2007-08 .

Reliance & InterCall enters into tie-up to provide conferencing services

Reliance Communications has entered into an exclusive partnership with Chicago-based InterCall, the world's largest conferencing services provider.
As a part of this strategic tie-up, Reliance Communications has rolled out an unique pan-India integrated audio conferencing service both to and from India to its customers.
Reliance InterCall conferencing transforms a phone connection into a virtual conference room, an online auditorium, an electronic brainstorming session and an audit summit depending upon the requirements, the company said in a statement here on Tuesday.
Presently, over 30,000 organisations and 2,00,000 individual conference leaders around the world make use of InterCall's state-of-the-art conferencing facilities and these will now be available in India both for 'anytime meeting' and for reservation-based' services.

BSNL challenges TRAI's decision to cut port charges

BSNL on 8th march challenged the telecom regulator TRAI's decision to cut port charges in the tribunal TDSAT, saying the reduction in fees will lead to a loss of about Rs 100 crore every year to the company. Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal accepted the petition and issued a notice to TRAI, directing it to file a reply in two weeks.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India by its Telecommunication Interconnection (Port Charges) Amendment Regulation on February 2, 2007 that reduced port connectivity charges by 23-29 per cent.

BSNL's major argument in its petition is - "The TRAI vide its impugned regulation is attempting to modify and substitute its regulation over the interconnect agreements entered into between BSNL and private operators so as to effect an impermissible gain for private operators and loss to BSNL." BSNL also contended that while deciding the port charges, TRAI has not taken into consideration the cost of main equipments installed by it to provide interconnection.

Tata Teleservice plans to invest Rs 3500 Cr in 2007-08

Tata Teleservices (TTSL) is planning to invest Rs 3,500 crore in the next fiscal for expanding services across the country. TTSL has applied for licences in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and the rest of the North East. Elaborating on the telco’s expansion plans, CEO Mr Darryl Green has said, “We will add more cell cites and reach out to another 1,000 towns and if we get the spectrum, we will roll out 3G services as well.”
The company has been adding over half a million users every month. Along with subsidiary Tata Teleservices Maharashtra, TTSL has nearly 16 million users in India.

BSNL added over 10 lakh GSM subscribers in Feb 2007

In a statement released by Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the GSM-based cellular industry has added about 50 lakh subscribers in February. With this, the all-India GSM subscriber base has touched 11.53 crore at the end of February 2007 compared to 11.05 crore as on end of January 2007 with Bharti Airtel .

The Indian GSM industry is a key contributor in the 200 million milestone reached by the telecom sector in India as a whole in February.
In February, the cellular subscriber base of Bharti touched 3.54 crore with additions of over 17 lakh users, capturing 30.74 per cent of the market share. BSNL at 2.54 crore with a marketshare of 22.07 per cent and additions of over 10 lakh subscribers.
Hutch-Essar added 9.28 lakh subscribers and now has 2.53 crore subscribers, taking its market share to 21.98 per cent.
Idea added 5.6 lakh mobile users with a market share of 11.83 per cent has 1.36 crore subscribers in February.
MTNL's GSM subscriber base in Delhi and Mumbai touched 25.78 lakh, while Spice Telecom has also over 25 lakh subscribers.
Aircel's user base in February stood at 50.94 lakh, followed by Reliance Telecom's 41.1 lakh subscribers.

Indian Telcos planning to spin off mobile tower business into seperate units

Tata Teleservices is said to be in talks with several firms about spining off its mobile phone towers into a separate unit, part or all of which could then be sold. As per media guesses (reported by Economic Times), Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings and wireless tower operator Crown Castle International are in talks to buy close to 15 per cent in the mobile phone towers business of Tata Teleservices Ltd.
The industry analysts valued the tower business at up to $1 billion. Tata Teleservices has more than 5,000 mobile phone towers. Tata Teleservices, along with subsidiary Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd, has more than 15.5 million subscribers in India.

Reliance Communications Ltd had also said it would spin off its towers business into a separate unit, and leading mobile services provider Bharti Airtel Ltd has said it would do the same. Newspapers have indicated American Tower Corp, as well as private equity firms including Blackstone, Carlyle and Temasek were interested in Reliance Communications' towers unit.

The 'Idea' of investing $2bn

Idea Celluar, the Aditya Birla Group owned telecom company, currently operates in 11 circles out of 13 for which it has been issued license. It has applied for license in nine new circles. In the past six months the company has launched operations in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. It will launch operations in Mumbai and Bihar this year.

As per a press release, Idea is planning tol invest $2 billion in the next two years to compete in the booming Indian telecom market. Aditya Birla Group and Idea Cellular Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla meanwhile ruled out any tie-up to compete with rivals like Vodafone.

After Hutch, FIPB eyeing at Aircel ?

As per a latest news in Economic Times, after Hutch the shareholding structure of Aircel Cellular can also come under the lens of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). Like Hutch, Maxis Communications too consolidates nearly 100% of its stake in Aircel in its overseas accounts though its equity stake in the Chennai-based operator stands at just 74%. As per the filing by the company to the Malaysian stock exchange Bursa Malaysia in March 2006 - "With equity interest of 74% in Aircel (comprised 65% direct interest and 9% indirect interest) and 100% subscription of cumulative redeemable non-convertible preference shares in Deccan Digital, this effectively gives the group 99.3% economic returns from the investment in Aircel,” . Maxis had teamed up with the Pratap Reddy family and incorporated a joint venture company, Digital Networks Private Ltd, in India to buy Aircel in 2005-06. Maxis subscribed to the non-convertible preference shares in this company, giving the group nearly 100% economic interest in Aircel. Indian investment rules stipulate that foreign investors can own only up to 74% in an Indian company and that domestic investors should own the remaining. However, in some cases such as Hutch-Essar, the foreign company is also enjoying the economic benefits of the entire 100% raising questions as to whether this violates the investment guidelines. On February 28, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) wrote a letter to Hutchison Essar asking them to name the beneficial owners of the entities controlled by Indians.
Aircel provides cellular services in nine circles and has over 5 million subscribers.

Use of telecom in South Asia by Bottom of Pyramid - research report

A study of teleuse at the bottom of the pyramid were officially released in Singapore at a media workshop on 28 February 2007. The research findings were presented to and then discussed with the journalists by Dr. Harsha de Silva and Ayesha Zainudeen of LIRNEasia and Dr. Lorraine Carlos Salazar of ISEAS, Singapore. followed by discussion with the journalists.

The presentations can be downloaded below-

Research Methodology and Key Findings Harsha de Silva

Cost Cutting Strategies at the Bottom of the Pyramid: The SMS Story, Missed Calls, and others Lorraine Carlos Salazar

The next billion customers Ayesha Zainudeen

Microsoft expects VoIP software market to reach $40b?

Microsoft is eyeing a shift in the way businesses use telephony and sees a move to web-based phone systems, or Voice over Internet Protocol [VoIP], according to Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division. It expects 100 million business users to make VoIP calls on its Office Communications software within three years. That is more than double the size of the current VoIP business market. Reuters reports only 8% of U.S. businesses have fully incorporated VoIP technology despite 82% of them using VoIP somewhere in their network, according to the Yankee Group. Cost has been a deterrent, but Microsoft says it expects a halving of prices in the next three years. Currently Microsoft faces business VoIP competition from Avaya and Cisco. Two versions of Microsoft's Office Communications software will be available for beta testing later this month.

Sources: Press release CNET, Reuters

Slowing Mobile growth - Choices for operators worldwide

If we look at the global wireless telecom industry as a whole, the growth is slowing down. It took 12 years for the GSM/W-CDMA global subscriber base to hit one billion. It took just 2.5 years to reach the second billion. And it will take just another year to reach the third billion, as the three-billion threshold will be breached by year's end. At the same time, wireless operators have gambled billions in new technologies such as 3G, HSDPA, WAP and mobile television. In most markets, these investments have yet to bear fruits.
In fact, a 2007 Telecommunications Industry Review report released by Insight Research Corp. shows that revenue from IP services represented a meager 0.9% of all global wireline and wireless revenue last year. That is projected to reach just 5.7% of the revenues forecasted for 2011.
The mobile voice growth figures cause some industry executives and many industry analysts to flash red warning lights at mobile network operators. Informa Telecom & Media, warns in a recent report that worldwide mobile subscriber growth has declined since 2001, a trend that will accelerate through the end of the decade. After rising 19.4% last year, growth will fall to 10% in 2008 and plummet to just 3% in 2011. The report also notes that dual-SIM and multi-SIM ownership is growing in some parts of the world. About 22.5% of all mobile subscriptions worldwide result from dual/multi-SIM ownership and this figure will rise through 2011. But will that be enough to compensate for a saturated market? Highly doubtful.
Let's analyse some of the predictions of Martin Garner, director of wireless intelligence for research firm Ovum -
- The majority of the world's mobile growth is expected to come from the Asia-Pacific region, although the fastest growth rate will shift from China to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- In Western Europe, by contrast, three-quarters of the countries will end this year with a market penetration exceeding 100%.
- World market penetration will hit 47% in 2007, compared to 41% at the end of 2006. That means many mobile operators will find it much harder to make a buck, especially in developed markets like Western Europe, Japan and the US.
- In the most developed cellular markets, penetration is well over 100%. Italy, for example, is currently very close to 140%. Clearly this means that there are multiple connections per real user, and some statistics are becoming available to measure this phenomenon. The SIMs-per-user number is about 1.7 in Italy. But multiple users also abound in less-developed, high-growth markets such as Egypt, South Africa and Turkey where the number is 1.2.
- 406 million new mobile connections worldwide this year, which translates to a growth rate of about 15%. APAC will account for 1.2 billion of the world's three billion connections by year's end. Africa will emerge as the world's fastest-growing region with 28% growth this year (although here, too, the rate of growth is slowing).

Now if the new mobile voice subscription growth is declining, what options are left for such operators.
-The challenge for mobile providers is to quickly popularise the data based mobile services.
- One way wireless carriers are compensating for the slowing growth in mobile voice is by building new service infrastructures. Garner says W-CDMA doubled its user base to just short of 100 million people last year. Similarly, cdma2000 1X EV-DO increased its user base by 88% in 2006 to end the year on 50.5 million. Ovum forecasts an 83% rise for W-CDMA this year and 61% for cdma2000 1X EV-DO. (The predictions don't include connections for China and India because not enough information is available.)
- The expectation is that data revenue and entertainment revenues will increase ARPU . Only this can offset slower subscriber growth.
- Worldwide mobile operators, which together comprise a $600 billion revenue business, have to become more innovative and flexible in managing their businesses. Success will come in the ability to excel in areas they may not have paid much attention to before, such as managing multiple business lines, coping with increased risk and enhancing organizational effectiveness.
- In a lower-margin environment, the risk of taking the wrong action is greater that the risk of inaction. Mobile carriers need to diversify their businesses by choosing one or more strategic options. These include acquiring businesses (or being acquired) to move into the quadruple-play services world; building a new business (such as VoIP) along the existing one; creating experimental businesses while staying focused on the core business; or stalling off the competition through lobbying. (as per Brian Corey, telecom practice leader at Katzenbach Partners LLC)

source -

USO bid for setting rural telecom towers

The Department of Telecom has received bids from 22 stand-alone infrastructure providers and all telecom operators for the setting up 8,000 telecom towers in rural India at an estimated cost of over Rs 3,000 crore. The government will provide the capital to set up these towers from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) through a bidding process. All Telecom companies pay 5% of their adjusted gross revenues towards the USOF, which is used for funding telecom infrastructure in rural India. Last year, the government had allocated Rs 1,500 crore towards the USOF in the budget. As per the Economic Survey released on Tuesday, off the Rs 10,787 crore collected towards USO fund till March 2006, only Rs 4,232 crore has been disbursed so far.

Indian Telecom sector to get a unified tax structure?

Finance Minister P Chidambaram has asked Department of Telecom to commission a study for working out a unified tax structure for the sector. At present, total levies in the telecom sector, including the annual revenue share that the companies pay to the government stand between 28-30 per cent, which operators feel is very high. The annual revenue share ranges between 6-10 per cent of their revenues depending upon the circle where they operate.

GSM modems - $10 billion sale expected by 2012?

The sales of GSM modems is finally picking up. Although shipments of cellular modems in 2006 were slightly below expectations, the momentum is building for this market to reach sales of 68 million units worth nearly $10 billion by 2012, a 47-percent compound annual growth rate.
The growth will come from the proliferation of 3G networks and better cellular broadband pricing.

China Unicom's new strategy - Growth centered around CDMA

China Unicom has sold about 8 million CDMA2000 mobile phones in 2006.
According to the CDMA Development Group (CDG), 70 percent of the CDMA handsets sold in China were priced at less than $129, making them quite affordable and contributing to China Unicom's ending the year with 37 million CDMA2000 subscribers.

In June 2006, South Korea's SK Telecom (SKT) purchased a 6.67-percent stake in China Unicom. The partnership reportedly has strengthened China Unicom's CDMA business by providing additional working capital for advanced mobile handsets, network enhancements and the marketing of value-added services. The increased availability of low-cost handsets and dual-mode (CDMA & GSM) devices, several marketing campaigns and reduced operating costs helped the company attain profitability within the third quarter of 2006. There are as many as 19 dual-mode phones, also known as Worldwind phones, available in China. By the end of 2006, the average selling price for China Unicom's CDMA handset portfolio was less than for its GSM portfolio, which spans from low-cost to high-end dual-mode phones. By the end of 2007, it is expected that sales of low-cost and Worldwind phones in China will hit 5.5 million and 3 million, respectively. China Unicom also introduced a new logo and reorganized its consumer and corporate services branding structure. Its "Rural New Time Space" campaign targeted rural markets by enabling farmers to access agricultural information using SMS or WAP. Plans this year include continued cooperation with CDMA producers to promote performance and price ratios, and to produce more low-cost CDMA handsets set to launch in rural markets.

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