Cellular News
   
Date: 30/3/2004 
Hutchison to form new company for emerging markets business 
Hutchison Whampoa to form a separate company listed in Hong Kong to focus on its emerging markets telecom businesses. The new company would include Hutchison's fixed-line and mobile businesses in Hong Kong, as well as its stakes in mobile operations in India, Thailand, Israel, Macau, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Paraguay. Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by Asia's richest businessman Li Ka-shing, would retain a majority stake in the separately listed company. The objective is to add further focus to the group's telecommunications activities in growth markets by aggregating its extensive assets and financial, operational and management resources in a single vehicle.  
 
Date: 27/3/2004 
IDEA Cellular to launch MMS & GPRS in Maharashtra 
IDEA Cellular will launch general packet radio switching (GPRS) and multi-media messaging services (MMS) by May in Maharashtra circle. The company is set to expand its spectrum availability. It has asked for an additional 2.2 megahertz (MgHz), taking its total spectrum availability to 10 MgHz. IDEA has introduced EDGE technology (3G) in Delhi on a pilot basis to demonstrate its technological capabilities. The company has achieved net profitability in its Maharashtra circle, which contributes 40% of its total revenues. Idea will invest Rs. 300 crore in the next financial year for network expansion. In the Maharashtra circle, it will set up 100 new cell sites, a new gateway switch in Pune, which is a network management technique, upgrade its switches at Pune, Nagpur and Goa and add 700 more transceivers.  
 
Date: 26/3/2004 
Bharti to raise $100m via FCCBs 
Bharti Televentures is planning to raise up to $100m by issue of Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds (FCCBs) convertible into equity shares. The company board has approved the proposal. The issue carries a greenshoe option of $15m. Details on the pricing and maturity of the bonds were not yet decided. The raising of funds through FCCBs will be subject to shareholders' and other statutory approvals, as may be required.  
 
Date: 25/3/2004 
Bharti to merge its Chennai & Kolkata operations 
Bharti is merging Bharti Mobinet, its  Chennai operations and Bharti Mobitel, its Kolkata operations into Bharti Cellular. The DoT has given its approval to the merger. Bharti acquired BK Modi's Kolkata operations of Spice, while the Chennai operations were acquired from the Crompton Grieves group. The merger of Bharti Mobinet and Bharti Mobitel with Bharti Cellular will smoothen the company structure. Bharti Mobinet is the largest cellular service provider in Chennai, with more than 3.6 lakh subscribers. In Kolkata, Bharti Mobitel is the second largest operator.
 
Date: 24/3/2004 
Bharti sources CEOs from Coca-Cola 
Bharti has finally roped in Jayant Khosla, Coca Cola's regional vice-president (operations) Mumbai for its CEO position in Mumbai. Mr. Khosla's appointment comes more than five months after previous CEO, Atul Jhamb, put in his papers to join Reliance Infocomm. In Jammu & Kashmir also the company has appointed RPS (Teddy) Bhullar to look after operations in the state who is also from Coca Cola. In some other circles, Bharti is looking at recruiting internally. Shankar Prasad, who heads the Bangalore circle, has been given charge of UP (east). Bharti plans to launch its services in the six new circles by August-September, '04. 
 
Date: 23/3/2004 
Bharti to invest Rs. 2,000 cr 
Bharti has drawn out plans to invest Rs.2,000 crore during '04-'05 as part of its plans to connect over 2,300 towns. Bharti is rolling out its mobile services in six more circles -- Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh (East), West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Rajasthan. The company is planning to up its network capacity to cater to more than 11 million subscribers. It is also proposing to double up its cell sites from 5,000 to about 10,000 across the country. The network would be scaled up to handle four billion call minutes a month. As part of the plans, Airtel would expand its mobile services to 1,000 new towns during 2004-2005, out of which 300 would be added in six new circles. Across 21 Airtel circles, mobile connectivity would be provided to 20,000 new villages by the end of the next financial year. 
 
Date: 23/3/2004 
Roaming in Pakistan 
Indian government allowed roaming on cellular from Pakistan just before the Indo-Pak cricket series. The permission is till June. 
AirTel was the first indian service provider to offer roaming services in Pakistan at a flat rate of Rs.45 p/m. Now, BPL Mobile's calls from Pakistan to India will cost Rs.44 p/m. Hutch and Airtel are charging Rs.12 for SMSs from Pakistan to India and Rs.5 from India to Pakistan. Besides, AirTel users will have to pay an additional 15% surcharge. Hutch would charge Rs.50 per minute for calls within Pakistan and Rs.57 for calls from Pakistan to India, including 15% surcharge. Hutch is offering SMS from India to Pakistan at Rs.5.  
 
Date: 22/3/2004 
Ezze to launch mobile phones in India 
Korean company Ezze Mobile Technology is planning to launch its range of cellular phones in India for which it is currently looking for a national distributor.  According to Mr. I S Sung, GM, Ezze Mobile Tech, the company plans to launch three to four GSM handsets in India initially. Ezze currently sells its handsets in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and other markets. China accounts for 60% of the revenues while the rest comes from south east Asia and Europe. The company plans to invest $0.5 million in India initially, he said, adding that it would ship out 5,000 units in the first phase. Later target would be at least 10,000 units per month in India. Ezze's current portfolio includes folder (clamp-shell) models, swivelling camera handsets and rotatory camera handsets.  
 
Date: 21/3/2004 
Kyocera sets up test centre in India 
Kyocera Wireless, a CDMA (code division multiple access)handset maker has set up a product test centre in Bangalore, its first such facility outside its San Diego headquarters. The company has made a multi-million dollar investment in this centre and recruited 55 technicians to conduct software and system tests for Kyocera's mobile handsets.  
 
Date: 16/3/2004 
Indian handsets market to touch 25m units 
The mobile phone handsets market in India is expected grow over 50% to 25m units during 2004. India is the fastest growing market for mobile phone handsets worldwide. From 5m sets in '02, the Indian market grew to 16m in '03. It would touch 25m this year.  
The drastic reduction in the import duty on handsets has changed the market dynamics. When the duty level was very high in '01, almost about 80-90% of the demand was controlled by the grey market. Today, with the duty falling to a low of 5%, the total industry's grey market portion could be estimated at around 20-25%.  
 
Date: 14/3/2004 
Government allows Roaming facility in Pakistan 
Indian government has allowed roaming facility for Indian mobile phone users in Pakistan. Following this Airtel and Hutch are among the first ones to provide this facility. These operators are tying up with Mobilink in Pakistani. Indian mobile subscribers will be able to call family and friends visiting Pakistan on their Indian mobile numbers for the next four months. The roaming facility is among the number of initiatives being extended by the Indian government to improve bilateral relations between the two countries.  
 
Date: 12/3/2004 
Hutch launches 'click 'n print MMS' service 
Hutchison Telecom announced a three-way partnership with Nokia and Kodak to nationally launch its Click & Print MMS service.  
The service allows Hutch mobile subscribers with GPRS-enabled Nokia camera phones to click and courier the developed photographs to any destination in India within five days. The printing and courier facility will be handled by Kodak.The service will be available to any Hutch GPRS user opting for the service at Rs.12 per print (inclusive of courier charges), which will be billed to the Hutch user's account. Currently the service will be available on four Nokia GPRS handsets - Nokia 7650, 6600, 3660 and 3650.  
The user needs to key in the words Kodak and SMS it to 5555. This lets you download the Kodak software tool that handles picture transmission from your cellphone. Then pick any image of your choice and use the downloaded Kodak icon and Hutchison's GPRS network to transmit images to Kodak's central server in Mumbai, from where they will be developed and couriered to any destination address specified by the sender. Hutch has nearly 1 million GPRS subscribers across India out of which only 1.5 lakh use MMS. 
 
Date: 6/3/2004 
IDEA is ready for an IPO 
IDEA Cellular is ready for an IPO if necessary. The proceeds will be used to take care of acquisitions and expansion plans. The company recently concluded the biggest acquisition in the Indian wireless industry when it took over 100% stake in Escotel Mobile Communications, giving it ownership of six telecom circles and 8.25 lakh subscribers. It is looking for further acquisitions, preferably original licensees. Acquisitions would give IDEA a larger footprint and help it to become profitable. In fact, on a stand alone basis, the company has the critical mass in the existing circles to be profitable and have a EBIDITA margin of 43%, including Delhi. Over the next three years, IDEA will invest Rs.1,800 crore on expansion. 
 
Date: 5/3/2004 
Philips has invented a lens that works like human eye 
Philips Electronics has invented a tiny digital camera lens to fit inside a mobile phone that could focus on objects and create sharp pictures in ways that are similar to the human eye. Unlike high-end digital cameras, the new lens does not require mechanical moving parts because it works by manipulating two fluids in a tiny transparent tube. The company says that it will build a production line for the three-millimetre lenses that are aimed at low-cost imaging products, such as digital cameras that fit inside a mobile 
phone or a home security system. By charging the sides of the tube with an small electric current, one of the two fluids is drawn to the edges while the other fluid fills up the remaining space in the tube. The place where the two fluids meet, functions like a lens. 
By changing the current, this lens can be shaped hollow, curvex or anything in between, so that it can focus on objects far away or as close as five centimetres. The lens is the first of its kind and the technology has been patented by Philips. 
 
Date: 5/3/2004 
Consolidation and growth in telecom sector 
According to a presentation by Ernst & Young (India) at CII telecom summit, consolidation in the telecom sector is inevitable and the restriction on foreign equity holding continues to hamper the fund raising ability of the sector. The Government should address the situation fast. Bigger players will drive consolidation and restructure their operations leading to a greater ability to invest in the growth of the telecom sector in India. This process should result in 3-5 large players, with a pan India footprint and focus. ABN-AMRO projected mobile access revenue to grow at 45% compounded annual growth rate to Rs.47,400 crore by the year 2008. Mobile is expected to overtake fixed lines by September 2004.  

The share of wireless users has shot up to 40% of India’s total telephone subscriber base. As per E&Y forecast India’s mobile users will make up 70% of the total telephone subscriber base by 2007. It pegs India’s total telephone subscriber base at 203m by end of 2007, in which wireless will account for 142m. It also expects India’s teledensity levels to touch 20%, and annual telecom industry revenues to about $25bn by 2007. The reason for such optimism is attributed to the introduction of unified licensing, the DoT nod for operators to transfer wireless licences, the allowing of intra-circle wireless mergers and the implementation of the IUC regime.  
 

Date: 4/3/2004 
Cellular handsets cheaper 
The mobile phone prices dipped by 8-10%. The market is estimated to grow 20% faster than predicted earlier and would rise to 2.5 crore units from 1.3 crore last year. It is expected that about 14 million GSM and 11.8 million CDMA handsets will be sold in 2004, according to the Indian Cellular Association (ICA). Major mobile handset companies have reduced prices to the extent of 26% across all segments following the reduction of basic customs duty to 5% along with abolition of 4% SAD announced earlier. If all their other recommendations on SAD and CVD are met too, ICA expects industry to achieve a size of $10 billion by 2007 and legal market to grow to 90%. 
 
Date: 2/3/2004 
TRAI recommendations only after the elections  
TRAI will submit its recommendations on the unified licensing regime only after the forthcoming loksabha elections. Although the process of formulation of guidelines would begin this week. The Election Commission brought in force the model code of conduct according to which the government cannot announce new policies. Even if the TRAI submits its recommendations to DoT in April, the government would not be allowed to announce guidelines for the unified telecom licences. Meanwhile, the regulator would release consultation paper this week. All the interested parties would send their response to TRAI within one month. Then TRAI would conduct open house session all over the country. The regulator would consider all the views while making final recommendations.  
 
Date: 1/3/2004 
Cellphone & camera on a wristwatch !! 
First-of-its-kind three-in-one combination of wristwatch, camera and cellphone has been quietly launched in India first. The device will hit the US and Korean markets only in late March. Telson TWC 1150, a designer phone has been brought to India by Reliance Infocomm. It will be  exclusively available in select Webworld stores only in select cities. Priced at Rs.23,900 this 98 gm device also has features like a speakerphone, voice recording and voice recognition capabilities. To listen to the call one can use the instrument like a speakerphone as long as your wrist is at chest-level or use an earpiece which is infrared-enabled else one can wear an metal ring on finger connected with a thin wire to the wristwatch, bring your finger close to the ear to listen to the caller. You can also use the plug-in high-resolution camera that is included in the handset kit. The CDMA based gadget also supports voice dial, voice memo, call recording and answering machine functionalities.  
 
Date: 1/3/2004 
Airtel to centralise mobile billing 
Airtel is centralising billing for all its mobile subscribers in 15 states and shifting the entire operations to Delhi. Frequently travelling subscribers will be able to access customer care through a single number from anywhere in the country. This way, the company will save more than 30% of development and maintenance costs and deploying new services across the country will be much cheaper. Bharti is investing over Rs. 300 crore to upgrade the system. The expected services are like e-bills and online payments. Around a quarter of the subscribers are expected to opt for online bills in next three months, thus saving paper costs. The company  is deploying Kenan billing system for this. 
 
Date: 1/3/2004 
GSM World Congress in Cannes 
GSM World Congress in Cannes is celebrating one billion GSM customers around the world across 206 countries. The world congress at Cannes attracted over 36,000 visitors this year which is 30% more than in the previous year. The huge endorsement of GSM by the world has helped in lowering the infrastructure cost and, more importantly, handsets and SIM card prices. Development of content is taking a quantum leap in the GSM arena. The power of SIM cards, as an authentication tool, holds promise for the industry, which may not only parallel the revenue opportunities available in traditional telephony, but may well go beyond. Applications like music download, ring tone downloads, bank transactions and the associated payment solutions around the mobile phones are going to be the next big things. The power of GSM not only lies in the rich technology and its open standard, but in the coming together of almost all the big and small mobile players. This makes it the most power-packed service, at affordable prices, having the simplicity of user experience which is expected to reach over two thirds of the world in the next few years.  
 
Date: 26/2/2004 
Hutch to invest Rs.300 cr in Gujarat 
Hutch is planning to invest Rs.300 cr in Gujarat circle for the year 2004. The funds will be utilised for network capacity enhancement and upgradation of its call centre and billing systems. The company is planning to add 300 cellsites to existing 650 cellsites. 300 seats will also be added to its 130 seats call centre. 50 more towns will be added to its Gujarat coverage. Investments would also be made in upgrading billing systems, increasing the number of exclusive one-stop Hutch shops to 50 from 29 and hiking teleshops  from 217 to 400 by the end of the year. Hutch also intends to put up recharge zones in trains allowing customers to recharge their cellphones while on the move. At present, Hutch has put up 600 recharge zones in public places including Volvo buses plying in Gujarat.Hutch has already invested Rs.1135 crores in Gujarat. It has a total subscriber base of 8.57 lakh in Gujarat.
 
Date: 26/2/2004 
Operators will have to submit seperate accounting statements 
To identify cross-subsidisation practices and investigate cases of predatory pricing, TRAI has made it mandatory for operators to submit accounting statements separately for every service, for each licensed area. This reporting is applicable to all licensed telecom service providers offering services like basic, national long distance, international long distance, cellular, internet, VSat, radio paging, public mobile radio trunk and global mobile personal communication services. The accounting separation reports would help TRAI to monitor and measure financial performance of individual telecom products/network services and information about disaggregated costs to the level of network elements. The reporting system would also help generate accurate information on costs, which is necessary to decide interconnection usage charges (IUC) and access deficit charges (ADC). This regulation is also applicable on integrated players and companies holding unified access services licence.
 
Date: 26/2/2004 
AT&T puts its IDEA stake on the block 
As Cingular bought out AT&T Wireless, its stake in IDEA Cellular is on the block.The US telecom major is in talks with international private equity investors to offload its stake in the three-way joint venture as the new buyer Cingular has shown no interest in Indian operations. AT&T has already pulled out of its other investments in India, with the most recent being the exit from BPL Mobile. 
AT&T's 30% share in IDEA is in excess of Rs.750 crore.  

In the largest all-cash deal, the second-largest US mobile phone group, Cingular (owned by regional carriers SBC Communications and BellSouth) recently took over it rival AT&T Wireless. AT&T Wireless split from its parent company AT&T in July '01 to become a full-fledged wireless major. 
 

Date: 26/2/2004 
Jag Mohan Mishra joins Telecom Commission 
Jag Mohan Mishra is the new member of the Telecom Commission. A 1967-batch India Telecom Service officer, Mr. Mishra was an advisor in DoT. As member production, he will be responsible for the licences issued to both private parties and PSUs for operating, and foreign investments. 
 
Date: 24/2/2004 
MTNLto launch prepaid on CDMA 
MTNL would soon launch prepaid services on its CDMA network. C-DoT is giving final touches to the intelligent network (IN) platform that would enable MTNL to offer prepaid services.The new network of eight lakh lines would be operational within six months. Both Delhi and Mumbai will get 4 lakh lines each. MTNL is placing orders for handsets for the new CDMA network. Currently, MTNL has a CDMA network of 1.5 lakh lines each in Delhi and Mumbai. It has a subscriber base of 80,000 in Delhi and of about 60,000 in Mumbai.
 
Date: 22/2/2004 
Intra-circle mergers and acquisitions 
Government has finalised guidelines for mergers and acquisitions of phone companies within a telecom circle which will facilitate industry consolidation. The guidelines issued are more liberal than those recommended by TRAI last month. TRAI had recommended that the market share of the merged entity should not exceed 50%, DoT has raised the limit to 67% . For cellular industry, the limit will include both CDMA & GSM subscribers. This implies that, for example, in Delhi, where there are around  
4 million mobile subscribers, over 3 million GSM and about a million CDMA,  big cellular operators like Airtel and Hutch can merge.  
Taking purely GSM subscriber base, they couldn't, because in January the two together already had market share of about 80%. The guidelines also stated that the spectrum of individual companies would be transferred to the merged entity with a ceiling of 15 Mhz per operator per service area. All intra-circle merger and acquisitions would need DoT’s approval. Moreover, there should be a minimum three operators in an area post-merger. The mergers would be permitted in the categories - cellular licence with cellular licence, basic with basic, unified with unified, basic with unified and cellular with unified. 
 
Date: 9/2/2004 
Reliance Infocomm launches pre-paid service 
Reliance Infocomm launched its pre-paid services today. This is the first Indian CDMA operator and the second such worldwide to offer this facility. The company offers a handset for around Rs.3,500 along with 10 recharge coupons of Rs.324 each which are valid for six months and are free with the handset. Of these, two will be loaded on the handset and the balance eight will be available in the form of coupons. Each coupon will have Rs.200 talk value. The bookings for the Reliance prepaid service is on at the retailers who have to pay the handset price upfront. Reliance closed the Rs.501 scheme around 15-30 days back to make way for the prepaid scheme. All local calls, intra-circle calls and inter-circle calls of less than 50 km distance to another mobile phone would be charged at Rs.2.49 a minute. All inter-circle calls of above 50 km to another mobile phone would be charged at a flat Rs.2.99 a minute. All local calls, intra-circle and inter-circle calls of less than 200 km to a fixed phone would be charged at Rs.2.99 a minute. The charge would be Rs.3.99 a minute if the distance exceeded 200 km. There would be no roaming rental and no monthly rental for voicemail. The grace period for re-charge would be six months. The company would soon announce a new scheme that would allow its post-paid users to migrate to the pre-paid platform while retaining the same number. 
 
Date: 9/2/2004 
MTNL launches customer loyalty programmes 
MTNL is launching schemes rewarding its loyal customers with bonus points that could be redeemed for attractive gifts. The company will give points for loyalty, usage, early payment of bills and for using unified services. These schemes will be implemented from next week. Through its new schemes, MTNL will offer incentives such as Internet account for 250 hours, attractive cordless phones and virtual credit cards (VCC) of Rs.1,000. A customer who accumulates 550 bonus points is entitled for a VCC of Rs.108, for 1100 points he will get a VCC of Rs.216, for 2700 points the entitlement is either for a VCC of Rs.540 or an Internet account of 100 hours. For 5400 points, subscribers are entitled for an Internet account of 250 hours or a VCC card of Rs. 1080. For 10,000 points, a customer can get a cordless and customer line identification phone. For 25,000 points, MTNL will give a CDMA connection to the subscriber. All existing customers with no outstanding would get 100 bonus points from the day of launch. There will be a special bonus for customers using MTNL services for over a year. Those who are with MTNL for over five years will get a bonus of 125 points. The subscribers who come back to the MTNL network will get 100 points. Recommending MTNL to any new subscriber would entitle a customer 50 bonus points. The bonus point system will also encourage the use of MTNL phones. For instance, if a customer makes 1300 calls in a month, he is entitled to 100 bonus points. A subscriber can earn up to 1750 points in a month through usage. 
 
Date: 7/2/2004 
Tata Tele to recruit 20,000 in two years 
Tata Teleservices (TTSL) plans to recruit close to 10,000 employees and outsource an additional 10,000 jobs for rolling out its services in 11 new circles over the next two years. Currently its employee strength is 5,000. Currently operating in six states including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, the company has a customer base of about 15 lakh. The new jobs will be to operate the newly acquired licences in 11 more circles, including Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Kolkata, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) and West Bengal. The company would primarily be recruiting customer care professionals with experience in CRM, telecom engineers for network, sales and marketing and communication experts. The recruitment would take place across various levels, with the average age of the candidates being around 32 years. The company would also be outsourcing operations like project management, network roll-out, and certain business processes.
 
Date: 7/2/2004 
Bharti to announce $400 million equipment deals 
Bharti is expected to announce up to $400 million worth of equipment contracts for its cellular services over the next few days. The company has decided to sign up Ericsson, Motorola and Siemens as its main vendors, both for expansion of the existing 15 telecom circles as well as setting up new projects in six circles for which it has bought licences. These will be three-year contracts and the first one is expected to be signed with Ericsson worth $250 million as Ericsson already operates 10 of AirTel circles. Ericsson is also looking at contracts to operate, maintain and upgrade networks, which will be over the equipment deal. The expansion and the new networks will be EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) enabled to allow high speed data and video on mobiles.
 
Date: 6/2/2004 
1.6m cellular subscribers added in January 
Indian cellular phone industry added 1.58m subscribers in January ’04, taking the total subscriber base to 29.76m. The total GSM subscriber base stood at 23.36m as of January end, while the CDMA subscriber base touched 6.4m. Reliance Infocomm is the largest mobile operator with a subscriber base of 6.45m (CDMA and GSM combined). Bharti is at number two position with a subscriber base of 5.86m. BSNL and Hutch held on to the third and fourth positions, with subscriber bases of 4.89m and 4.46m respectively. IDEA Cellular and BPL Mobile had 2.44m and 1.65m subscribers respectively in January ’04. The total mobile subscriber base of Tata Teleservices stood at 0.6m at the end of January ’04.
 
Date: 6/2/2004 
Hutch to invest Rs.1,700 cr 
Hutchison Essar is planning to invest around Rs.1700 crore on network expansion and setting up new networks over the next one year to expand its footprint and to double its subscriber base to eight million subscribers. The company, which currently has a subscriber base of four million across seven circles, added four more circles of Rajasthan, Haryana, UP-East and Punjab.
 
Date: 6/2/2004 
DoT clears TCIL's plan to sell 30% Hexacom stake 
DoT has approved government-owned Telecommunications Consultants India’s (TCIL) proposal to sell its 30% equity in Hexacom. Currently, Shyam Telecom controls a 40% stake in the company and it has exercised the right of first refusal to buy Canada based TIW’s 27.5% stake in the company. Hexacom is a cellular services provider in Rajasthan having more than 2,14,187 subscribers in the state. It is a zero-debt company. 
 
Date: 6/2/2004 
MTNL hikes STD tariffs marginally 
MTNL has marginally  hiked long distance tariffs on cell-to-cell calls by 60 paise while keeping the local tariffs unchanged after 
the implementation of new IUC regime. Increased tariffs would be applicable to post paid subscribers only.
 
Date: 5/2/2004 
Tata Tele pays Rs.417 cr for 11 new licences  
Tata Tele Services has paid Rs.417 crore to DoT for 11 new licences under the IUC regime. The new licences coupled with six circles where it already operates virtually gives the CMDA mobile operator a national footprint almost on par with BSNL and Reliance Infocomm. The company hopes to start off services in these 11 new circles by August ’04. These circles include Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Kolkata, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, UP East & West and West Bengal. 
 
Date: 5/2/2004 
Global sales of mobile phones exceeded all expectations in ’03 
According research groups that track the world’s consumer electronics segment of mobile handsets including Gartner Dataquest, IDC and Strategy Analytics, global sales of mobile phones exceeded all expectations in ’03 and  the handset industry will enjoy an even better ’04 as new handset models with color screen and high speed internet will catch on. Mobile phone sales to consumers were recorded at 510m units in ’03 and will exceed 560m units in ’04. It is the first year since 2000 that handset demand rose more than 10%. 

The cell phone manufacturers are benefiting from booming emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil and Russia, where they sell relatively cheap handsets to first-time buyers. They also target existing customers in the US, Europe, Japan and South Korea, who are replacing old models. 

Japan is leading this trend. Two years after the world’s first third-generation mobile networks were launched there, consumers are now embracing services such as video conferencing on models with built-in cameras and large color screens. In the US and Western Europe, consumers are also replacing their old monochrome models for those with color displays and cameras, but use less-advanced data services such as picture messaging because networks have not been upgraded. 

Smartphones, which feature calendars, email, pictures, music and other services in one device, were one of the fastest-growing new categories. 
 

Date: 5/2/2004 
Receive incoming voice calls/SMS in entire validity period 
Reliance Telecom Limited has extended a new feature to its pre-paid (Smart) services under which incoming voice calls/SMS will now be available to pre-paid subscribers during the entire validity period even after the expiry of the talk time value. The extended service came into force on February 2. The grace period starts from the day validity period expires. Also, the Reliance Infocomm has announced a new tariff under the new interconnected user charge (IUC) regime. It announced that under its popular Economy 149 and Budget 149 plans all local and intra-circle calls to mobile phones will cost Rs.1.49 per minute. Earlier, calls to GSM phones were charged at Rs.1.99. The new tariff will mean a saving of 25% for calls under this category. The calls to fixed line phones in more than 500 km distance will continue to be charged at Rs.3.99 per minute as before.
 
Date: 5/2/2004 
According to TRAI hike is not justified 
According to TRAI cellular operators were not justified in increasing call charges on account of new interconnect user charges (IUC), pertaining to which phone companies pay one another for connecting their networks and completing calls. The new IUC regime took effect from 1st Feb. Mobile operators like Airtel and Hutch said that IUC levied on them a new ‘tax’ called ADC (Access Deficit Charge) to be paid to state-owned phone company BSNL. The operators said this levy had led to the hike in STD, ISD and local call rates. Ever since the new IUC regime was announced in October, TRAI has maintained that the rates would not go up since when the new regime was being worked out it was demonstrated that there was no need for a tariff hike. Weighted average, the method used for checking out the impact on tariffs clearly showed that there were enough margins (for the industry) despite the new charge. He said that since these tariffs were in forbearance (ie.phone companies were free to fix tariffs), TRAI would let the market bring them down. 
 
Date: 4/2/2004 
Mobile services may get costlier 
As the new interconnect usage charges (IUC) regime has come into force cellular companies are designing new tariffs plans which are bundled with more value additions but may turn out to be costlier. Explaination is that under the IUC regime, cell users will have to pay a carriage charge of Rs 0.65 to Rs 1.10 to the long-distance carrier, 30-80 paise as additional deficit charge towards the rural telecom fund and another 30 paise as termination charge to the network where the call terminates. This would make for a tariff hike of 10-15%. Generally the companies don't think that they will lose customers because of this since the operational and exit cost of migrating to other options like CDMA service would be a deterrent and the subscribers already have a satisfaction level with GSM services.
 
Date: 3/2/2004 
FDI hike not before polls  
Telecom companies which have been waiting for the FDI investments may have to wait till the polls are over. The issue which was pushed off the Cabinet meeting last month will not appear in the deliberations at the last meeting of the body on February 4. This rules out the possibility of a green signal on hiking the FDI from 49% to 74% till elections are over. The proposal, which had reached a stage of closure at the meeting of the Cabinet on January 15, was taken off the agenda on the grounds that the matter needed detailed security consideration. 
 
Date: 31/1/2004 
Tele density highest in Kerala 
Kerala added 1.37 lakh land line phones last year, taking the total landline connections in the state to 31.58 lakh resulting in the tele-density of 10.98 phones per hundred population. This is more than double the national average which is less than 5 phones per 100 population. In the rural sector Kerala has 8.43 phones per 100 population, which is nearly 8 times the national average. There is also a cell phone boom in the state with the total connections crossing a million mark in December 2003. BSNL has a 35% share of the cell phone market in the state.
 
Date: 30/1/2004 
MTNL restructured its operations by merging GSM with Basic services 
Preparing for the unified access licence regime, MTNL has restructured its operations by merging its GSM division with its Basic telephone operations. Sharing of infrastructure and no separate accounting will save the company around Rs.50 crore per annum.  
Mr.Kuldeep Goyal, former executive director of MTNL's GSM mobile services is redesignated as chief general manager (wireless services) and will now report to Mr.A K Girotra, executive director of MTNL (Delhi). He will be looking after GSM and CDMA services in Delhi. MTNL will be focussing on attracting new customers as well as retaining the existing ones. GSM services would be promoted for those who want full mobility, while CDMA is targeted at the onesf who want limited mobility with high data access speed. The company would be replacing old equipment with the new state-of-the-art technology infrastructure, expanding its network and add cell sites to improve coverage and quality of service. It will add four lakh lines each in Delhi and Mumbai within six months.
 
Date: 29/1/2004 
MNCs review manufacturing in India 
As the government has reduced customs duty on cellphones, multinational mobile manufacturers are reviewing their plans to manufacture handsets locally. Specially the Korean telecom majors like Samsung and LG. The government recently reduced the customs duty on cellphones to 5% from 14% and abolished the special additional duty. French multinational Alcatel has already signed up with ITI to manufacture handsets in India. According to the analysts, manufacturing handsets is not viable at this point of time, even with zero excise duty, because of the current market size but these multinational companies may consider this at a later stage. Mobile subscriber base in India has the highest growth rate of 38% across Asia Pacific and may reach 56m subscribers by December '04. Industry estimates that around 90 lakh cellphones were sold in 2003.
 
Date: 28/1/2004 
Hutchison India reshuffles top management  
Hutchison India has reshuffled its top management following the integration of Aircell Digilink which was operational in Haryana, UP-East and Rajasthan. Sandip Das, as executive director, will be Hutchison's operational head for the Mumbai, Gujarat, Kolkata, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Chennai circles, Rajiv Sawhney will be executive director in charge of Delhi, Punjab and the three Aircell Digilink circles (Haryana, UP-East and Rajasthan).Both will report to Hutch India MD Asim Ghosh. Sanjoy Mukherjee and Sunil Sood have been appointed as CEOs for Gujarat, Kolkata circles respectively while Mr.Selvakumar will take charge as CEO, Chennai and Karnataka.
 
Date: 26/1/2004 
AV Birla group rediscoveres its interest in telecom 
It was believed earlier that the Aditya Birla group was planning to exit cellular telephony because of lack of synergy with the group’s main commodity businesses.The group seems to have rediscovered its interest in the telecom business, as things are looking up for the telecom sector. Also, IDEA Cellular, the three-way joint venture between the Birlas, Tatas and AT&T, completed its financial closure in October ’03 and has recently acquired Escotel. 
 
Date: 26/1/2004 
Ericsson looking at network managment 
Ericsson (Swedish telecom equipment manufacturer) has set up networks for Bharti, Tata and BSNL etc. The company has signed up contracts worth $400 million over the past few months. But the margins on these sales are thin. So the company is planning to now manage networks. For a long time, the core business of an operator was to run networks. But now operators are realizing that with increasing competition their core business is to focuss on adding new subscribers and retain the existing ones. 
 
Date: 24/1/2004 
Bharti Tele to raise $600 mn 
Bharti TeleVentures is planning to raise around $500-600 million by way of external commercial borrowings (ECBs) in the next financial year following the relaxation in ECB guidelines by the government. This will be used to refinance the earlier loans and for equipment purchases. The government put all ECBs up to $500m on the automatic route. Corporates can now get automatic approvals for raising ECBs, as long as the loan is for a minimum of five years. The automatic route is available for the industrial sector. 
 
Date: 21/1/2004 
Broadband on mobile 
GSM mobile services providers are upgrading their networks to third generation networks (3G) also known as EDGE (Enhanced Data rate for Global Evolution). IDEA Cellular is expected to launch its EDGE service this week in Delhi, while Bharti is planning to upgrade to EDGE in Delhi by the mid of this year. EDGE is a 3G network technology which delivers internet connectivity at speeds three times faster than 2.5G GPRS network. On an EDGE-enabled handset like Nokia 6220 video phone, a subscriber can enjoy a series of mobile data applications at speeds up to 118 kbps, almost three times of existing GPRS services. Most of the GSM mobile networks in India are already GPRS-enabled, which allows subscribers to connect to the internet. Upgrading from GPRS network to the EDGE network will also result in a shift to EDGE enabled handsets or phones.
 
Date: 21/1/2004 
ICA seeks states' help to end grey mkt 
Indian Cellular Association is asking for state governments' help to end grey market. Some states continue to have high sales tax rates for handsets. The recent duty cut announced by the central government was expected to take the marketshare of legal handsets in the country from the present level of 45% to 80% within a month. But states like Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam where high rates of sales tax have kept the legal market at a great disadvantage. In Kerala, where the sales tax on mobile handsets is as high as 13.8%, the grey market accounts for as much as 90% of the handset market. Kerala is of particular interest to handset companies since the state crossed the 1 million mark in mobile users. According to ICA, the Indian market for GSM handsets in 2004 was estimated at 16.90 million. 
 
Date: 21/1/2004 
LG to developed mobile software in India 
LG plans to focus on mobile phone software development in India. This unit currently is part of LG Soft India, with around 100 engineers and works in conjunction with LG Electronics, Korea. It  works on both GSM and CDMA technologies. This unit alone is expected to have 250 people in a year’s time and then eventually double-up to 500. The firm may become a separate business entity. This will make the centre one of the largest such facilities globally. 
 
Date: 21/1/2004 
Bharti group third among listed service companies 
Revenue of Rs.1,269 crore in the third quarter brings Bharti to third rank among listed service companies, behind ICICI Bank and Wipro, emerging ahead of Infosys, Tata Power and HDFC.Bharti emerged ninth in terms of market capitalisation on the BSE. The top 10 list includes stocks like ONGC, Reliance, IndianOil, HLL, Wipro, Infosys, SBI and ITC. The company has nearly doubled its customer base to 60.7 lakh at the end of December ’03, compared to 30.9 lakh at the end of ’02. After posting losses in ’02-03, the last three quarters have been profitable, with net profit jumping 73% in Q3. 
 
Date: 20/1/2004 
IB wants govt. to monitor security in telecom 
Intelligence agencies want the government to set up a dedicated body to monitor security aspects in telecom services. The telecom ministry's proposal to increase foreign investment limit to 74% from 49% was deferred by the cabinet on January 15th as the security agencies had some objections for which the communications ministry failed to give satisfactory reply. 
 
Date: 19/1/2004 
BSNL announces major investments 
BSNL is planning an investment of Rs.13, 000 crore in 2004-05 for expansion of GSM and CDMA networks. BSNL is looking at capacity addition of around 13 million during the next fiscal of which GSM connections would be between 70-80 lakh, CDMA will be between 15-18 lakh and the balance 10-15 lakh connections will be the fixed ones.
 
Date: 17/1/2004 
IDEA has agreed to absorb all Escotel employees 
Unlike most acquisitions and mergers that are followed by massive retrenchment IDEA’s acquisition of Escotel has not resulted in too many changes at the organisation level, except for some top-level movements. This is because IDEA is said to have agreed to absorb all Escotel employees. Also IDEA was not operating in any of the circles where Escotel was the service provider.
 
Date: 16/1/2004 
IDEA Cellular buys out Escotel Mobile Communications 
IDEA Cellular Ltd. has bought 100% of Escotel Mobile Communications for an enterprise value of around Rs.1,150 crore, of which Rs.275 crore will be paid by cash and the balance Rs.890 crore by debt route. This is one of the largest acquisitions in the Indian wireless Industry including 6 telecom circles with over 8,25,000 cellular subscribers. With this IDEA would be covering around 60% of India’s population and over 65% of the potential telecom market. 
 
Date: 15/1/2004 
AirTel launches MMS in Tamil 
AirTel is launching its first ever Multi Media service (MMS) downloads in Tamil on Pongal. AirTel subscribers could log on to www.airtelworld.com to access Chennai's Masala portal for Pongal greetings. However, to avail this service, the customers need to have an MMS-enabled handset and should have subscribed for the service. The downloads would be free. 
 
Date: 13/1/2004 
Bharti expands its senior management team 
Planning to get into six new circles, Bharti has added four senior management officials in last two weeks. The four new faces are Ms.Vijaya Sampath who has joined as corporate director and general counsel, Mr. Deepak Mehrotra who will be COO of Karnataka circle, Mr.Vivek Bali has joined as senior vice-president & consumer business head and Mr. Sunil Tandon who is going to be senior vice-president & head of national key accounts.
 
Date: 12/1/2004 
Reliance prepaid with free talk time 
Reliance Infocomm is planning to launch its prepaid mobile service between January 15th and 18th. The company is likely to offer a minimum Rs.1500 worth of free talk-time as part of its prepaid promotional offer for an unspecified period. Free prepaid talk-time options in Rs.1500 - Rs.4000 range will be bundled with multiple CDMA handset offers. This implies that the Reliance prepaid customers will have to pay upfront the full price of the handset of their choice to activate their connections. Free talk-time can be used to make local and STD calls besides sending SMS although ISD calls are not allowed on this free talk-time. Local and inter-circle STD calls will be priced at Rs.2/min while local, national and international SMS will cost a flat 50 paise per message . 
The selection of handsets include Motorola 131, LG 2030, Nokia 2280 and Samsung 191 CDMA handsets on "a right to use basis" which will be priced in the range of Rs.4,500  to Rs.6,500. According to sources RIM prepaid recharge vouchers will come in three denominations - Rs.250, Rs.500 and Rs.1000. Initially, the RIM prepaid connections will be available nationally at the 250 Reliance Web Worlds. 
 
Date: 10/1/2004 
Qualcomm projects 20 m CDMA base in 2004 
Encouraged by TATAs and Reliance's push for CDMA, Qualcomm projected 20 million CDMA subscribers in India by the year end. The company expects the two operators to promote its software platform BREW, which helps develop and deploy over-the-air data services and applications (music, video, e-mails, games etc.) alongside the currently prevalent Java, in the coming months.
 
Date: 9/1/2004 
Shyam Telecom to buy TIW stake 
Shyam Telecom, which had the first right to buy Canada-based TIW’s 27% stake in Hexacom, has exercised its right. Shyam Telecom and the Government owned Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd had first right of refusal and if TCIL exercises its right of first refusal, then the TIW stake would be equally divided between the two companies. Hexacom is one of the best-managed telecom operators in the country. It is a debt free company. At a valuation of $22.5 million for the 27.5% stake, TIW’s total valuation comes out to be more than Rs.370 crore. Following these developments Bharti has decided build its own mobile network in Rajasthan through its own licence for which a letter of intent is already in hand.
 
Date: 9/1/2004 
Cellular handsets may get cheaper 
Government has announced a cut in customs duty on mobile handsets to 5% and abolish the 4% SAD (Special Additional Duty). Following this the prices of mobile phones in the legal market are likely to come down by 8% -10%. Bigger price differential is expected in the high-end mobile handsets that are GPRS and MMS compatible or the camera phones. Indian Cellular Association, an apex body for cellular handset manufacturers in the country now expects that the grey market would be destroyed completely and the legal market for handsets would grow from the current 50% to 80%. Their estimate is that 26 million handsets would be sold in 2004. Exemption in customs duty is also granted to specific infrastructure equipment, which will enable service providers to cut down their costs and ensure a speedier rollout/upgradation of services. 
 
Date: 7/1/2004 
Teledensity in India 7% 
According to the latest figures released by the COAI and ABTO, total GSM cellular subscriber base has reached 21.99 million while  the CDMA subscriber figure (excluding BSNL and MTNL) is at 6.19 million. 12.71 lakh additions took place in the GSM segment while 4.2 lakh new subscribers joined CDMA base last month. Combined together Reliance Infocomm has a 62.46 lakh subscriber base (55.71 lakh CDMA and 6.75 lakh GSM) followed by Bharti with 55.01 lakh (GSM), BSNL 47.70 lakh (GSM), Hutch 41.16 lakh (GSM) and Idea Cellular 22.41 lakh (GSM). TRAI reports that with this kind of growth in the cellular subscriber base, the addition of total telephones (including landlines) exceeded 20 million in the year 2003. Thus total tele subscriber base has gone up to around 70.5 million achieving the teledensity target of 7% which was targeted for March 2005.
 
Date: 6/1/2004 
Over 12 lakh GSM cellular subscribers added last month 
Cellular community added 12,71,338 new GSM subscribers last month according to latest figures released by COAI. Leading the competetion, Airtel and Hutch added 326741 and 311815 subscribers followed by IDEA, BSNL and BPLmobile which added 160547, 143720 and 116404 subscribers respectively.
 
Date: 6/1/2004 
Ruias acquired over 30% in Hutch (Kolkata) 
Ruias of the Essar group have acquired just over 30% in Hutchison Telecom East through the group's telecom arm, Essar Tele-Holdings, in an all-stock deal. Essar and Kotak Mahindra together will hold 51%, while Hutch will continue to hold 49%.
 
Date: 6/1/2004 
SMS from landlines 
MTNL has started a short messaging service (SMS) from landlines where MTNL users can dial 1501 and leave a message with the operator, who will forward it to the receiver. The sender will only be charged the cost of the call.
 
Date: 6/1/2004 
MTNL wins licences abroad 
MTNL has won licences for operating GSM, WLL(CDMA) and ILD services in Mauritius and for providing fixed line telecom services in Kenya. It is already providing CDMA based mobile services in Nepal. The company also plans to bid for licences in the Persian Gulf and CIS countries. The company has a cash reserve of Rs.2,300 crore. The investments in Mauritius will be to the tune of Rs. 100 crore. In Kenya, MTNL would be in a joint venture with Telecom Consultants India Ltd and a local partner. It would have 40% stake in the company. 
 
Date: 5/1/2004 
V K Munoth, only Indian mobile brand 
Sales of V K Munoth, only Indian mobile brand is growing slowly but steadily. The brand was launched eight months ago. Sales are in the range of 1,000 pieces each month. Munoth offers a single clam shell (flip cover) design model, in two variants, at Rs.12,900. The company plans to introduce low end cell phones this year in the price range of Rs.4,000 - Rs.5,000. The company is Chennai based.
 
Date: 4/1/2004 
SMS was the prefered mode for saying Happy New Year! 
Saying Happy New Year through SMS was the most prefered way this season. In Mumbai, Airtel recorded an increase of 2.5 to 3 million SMSs on 31st and 1st. BPL mobile also gave the figure of 2.5 million messages on these two days while normal SMS traffic on a service provider in metro is around 1.25 million. MTNL also recorded double SMS traffic on both its GSM and CDMA services.
 
Date: 4/1/2004 
IDEA joins the price war in roaming 
IDEA announced its national roaming at Rs.1.99 per minute to its post-paid subscribers in all five circles namely Maharashtra and Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Delhi. Monthly rental is Rs.25. Subscribers can use outgoing and incoming local calls to any cellular, WLL or a landline at Rs.1.99 per minute while roaming. Outgoing STD calls to any GSM mobile  or to a landline or WLL phone within 200 km is also available for Rs.1.99 per minute. The outgoing STD call rates while roaming for a distance between 201 to 500 km is Rs 2.99 per minute, while the rates for distances above 500 km is Rs. 3.99 per minute.
 
Date: 3/1/2004 
SMS at 25p 
MTNL launched its new tariff plans on January 1st. where it has reduced SMS charges to 25 paise from the existing 50 paise. The cell-to-cell call charges are reduced to 90 paise per minute at an additional monthly fee of Rs.49. MTNL has also reduced monthly fee for national roaming to Rs.30 per month while roaming charges continue to be nill. The new tariffs are applicable for both pre-paid and post-paid subscribers. MTNL has around 1.6 lakh subscribers in Delhi and about 1.7 lakh subscribers in Mumbai. It has a capacity of 2.25 lakh subscribers each in the two cities. The company is also increasing its cell sites to make the service quality better.
 
Date: 3/1/2004 
TCIL may divest its 30% holding in Hexacom 
The Union communication ministry is seeking an independent assessment on the valuation of Telecom Consultants India Limited’s 30% stake in Hexacom. Industry sources link the move to a possible divestment of TCIL’s 30% holding in Hexacom. The government is planning to appoint a financial advisor through the international competitive bidding route. Hexacom operates cellular services in Rajasthan and is a zero-debt company with 2.2 lakh subscribers.
 
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