India telecoms

On a hot Tuesday afternoon Neha Arora, 32, stands outside an upmarket café in south Mumbai, struggling with two mobile handsets. She complains that her phone calls regularly cut out.

“It’s a way of life, I guess,” the wedding planner says. “You just call back or the other person calls back.” Read more

Nimbuzz, a Netherlands-based but India-focused messaging app, was acquired by New Call Telecom of the UK this week in a deal that valued the company at about $250m.

That is a tiny sum compared with the $22bn Facebook paid this year for WhatsApp, with its 465m users worldwide. Nimbuzz has 200m registered users, mostly in India, the Middle East and north Africa, and its success in the vast Indian market provides important lessons for tech companies in Asia’s third largest economy. Read more

India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is used to dealing with troublesome allegations – the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has certainly provided him with lots of practice in the last few months.

But accusations from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) over Reliance Industries’ telecoms business do sound a red alert, given that the sector is just recovering from a scandal over 2G spectrum allocations from 2008. Read more

Viom Networks, the Indian telecom infrastructure group, is set for some fundraising once the elections are over and markets settle. The company, majority owned by Tata Teleservices, could become one of the first Indian groups to take advantage of new regulations and do an IPO overseas.

Beyondbrics spoke to chief executive, Syed Safawi, and found out why Viom needs growth capital. The answer lies in some rare optimism around the Indian economy and the beleaguered telecoms sector in particular. Read more

A further twist in the tumultuous case of Vodafone and the Indian tax authority.

After deciding to scrap conciliation talks with Vodafone India just two weeks ago, the Indian government has put the offer back on the table – just as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making noise about resolving these kinds of conflicts if it comes to power following this year’s general election.

It is just the latest in a protracted $2.6bn dispute over capital gains taxes allegedly due in connection with Vodafone’s acquisition of Hutchison Essar back in 2007. Read more

Huawei, the Chinese telecoms equipment group, has long been blacklisted in the US on suspicion of stealing trade secrets from local companies and posing a wider security threat.

Now the group is under investigation in India, following allegations that it hacked state-run telecoms carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL). Read more

India’s telecoms industry has been under a big, dark cloud. From aggressive price wars to the infamous scandal around the allocation of spectrum, the sector has suffered multiple setbacks.

So the new round of spectrum auctions that kick off on Monday are of great interest – they could raise some Rs113bn ($1.8bn) for a government scrambling to meet fiscal deficit targets. The big question is: will operators bid generously or is India set for another embarrassing flop? Read more

Are Bharti Airtel‘s latest set of results a disappointment, or not? It’s hard to say.

Investors were initially cheered on Wednesday, sending the shares over Rs313 in early trading, but they are heading back down to Rs306, where they started the day.

Let’s pick it apart. Read more

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile operator by sales, is looking to issue debt, possibly through a eurobond, according to India’s Economic Times.

Although a bond issue isn’t officially announced yet, the company confirmed to beyondbrics that six banks have announced that Bharti has approached them, asking for meetings to be set up with fixed income investors from Wednesday. The six on the list are Barclays, BNP, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, Standard Chartered and UBS. And Moody’s, the credit rating agency, has assigned a rating to the bonds already. Read more

Watching India set its policy on telecoms auctions is like watching a game of tennis – there’s so much back and forth, you get a sore neck.

Although the country is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing telecoms markets, there were few takers at the last auction for 2G spectrum thanks to the high base price the government set. So what’s the latest volley (to prolong the tennis metaphor…)? Read more

Airtel, India’s largest mobile operator by sales, is continuing its expansion into Africa. On Tuesday, it announced plans to acquire Warid Congo, making Airtel the largest telecoms provider in the Republic of Congo (also known as Congo Brazzaville).

Before the deal, Airtel was already the second largest telecoms provider in the country and Warid, the third largest. Read more

India’s Telecom Commission, a high level committee charged with formulating telecoms policy, has approved a proposal to increase the limit on foreign direct investment into mobile phone services to 100 per cent from a current level of 74 per cent. The proposed change would make it possible for service providers such as UK-based Vodafone and Russia’s Sistema, which operate in India with local partners, to buy those partners out.

But if other recent changes to rules on FDI are any guide, investment will not flood in overnight. Read more

India has overtaken Japan to become the world’s third largest market for smartphones, joining China and the US on the podium.

In some ways, it’s unsurprising. With a population of over a billion people India is bound eventually to be among the largest markets for pretty much anything. What is interesting is how Indians are using their phones – and the local handset makers that are seeing lightning fast growth. Read more

You know that things are serious when companies are willing to engage in a price war.

India’s telecoms companies have been pushing data services for a while in their marketing campaigns. But now they are stepping up the battle for customers – by competing hard on rates. Read more

Indian woman talks on a mobileIndia’s 3m square kilometres are divided, in telecoms, into 22 circles – creating a mammoth jigsaw for consumers, operators and regulators.

Last year, the industry regulator, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), embarked on the grandly-named “One Nation” policy which plans to abolish roaming charges. And this week it took its first step in that direction. Read more

Thought Vodafone India had had its fair share of disputes with Indian telecoms regulators? Well, it’s not done yet.

The Indian arm of the British service provider has now been fined Rs12.6bn ($220m) by India’s Department of Telecommunications for allegedly understating revenues in the 2008-09 and 2010-11 fiscal years, according to local press reportsRead more

You think of a rickshaw driver as someone who ferries you from place to place, right? And the newspaper delivery man is simply the chap who brings you the morning rag. Think again.

Uninor, the Indian arm of Norwegian telecom Telenor, has become the first company to use tuktuk drivers to reach its customers. Newspaper delivery-wallas and milkmen will be next. Read more

No-one likes the feeling of being ganged up on.

State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court of India accusing Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone of colluding during bidding for 3G spectrum licences, in yet another addition to the long-running saga over sharing arrangements between telcosRead more

Bharti Airtel, the world’s fourth largest mobile services provider by subscribers, announced on Tuesday that it is set to buy Warid Telecom Uganda, the Ugandan business of Abu Dhabi-based Warid Telecom.

The Indian service provider is already Uganda’s second largest mobile phone operator with 4.6m customers. And by adding Warid’s 2.8m customers, it will be raise its market share to over 39 per cent. Read more

Vodafone India can’t seem to catch a break. Licence rows, tax arguments – and now Piramal Group, the Indian conglomerate, has announced it is planning to sell its 11 per cent stake in the telecoms company.

The deal may not be a surprise to the company, but it hardly helps confidence. Read more