Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nod for private players to roll out 3G

Sandeep Joshi:

They have been told to address all security-related concerns within 6 months

Though there is still no clear-cut solution in sight for intercepting video-calls, the Union government is learnt to have given a go-ahead to mobile operators to roll out 3G services with a condition that they put a mechanism in place within six months of the launch to help security agencies monitor hi-end mobile services, particularly video-calls.

After discussing the issue, Home Secretary Gopal K. Pillai and Telecom Secretary R. Chandrashekhar have reportedly decided to give conditional clearance for the launch of 3G services by mobile operators after getting assurance from the telecom operators that they would address all security-related concerns of the law enforcement agencies within six months of the launch of the services.

The issue had come to light after the Home Ministry and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) objected to the launch of 3G services by two leading private telecom players — the Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices — a few weeks ago, saying that there was no facility for real-time monitoring of video calls.

The government not only asked these two service providers to stop video-call facility, but also directed other operators ready for the 3G roll-out to find solutions to the security-related issues before going ahead with their launch plans. This caused concern in the telecom industry, with operators accusing the government of not allowing a level-playing field as the two government-owned operators — the BSNL and the MTNL – were already offering 3G services for the last several months.

However, the DoT and the Home Ministry did not relent and asked the private operators to address the security issue fearing that could be misused by anti-national elements.

The law enforcement agencies pointed out that contents of video-calls get displayed only after five minutes of the completion of calls, while they wanted interception on real-time basis.

During the demonstration given by the two private mobile providers to the law enforcement agencies, it came to light that long duration video-calls, both incoming and outgoing, could not be intercepted. This prompted security agencies to ask for decoders for real-time interception of such calls, to which the operators have agreed to provide a solution within next six months.

“The telecom industry is concerned as the government is still to a get a solution from Canada-based Research In Motion (RIM) for intercepting its BlackBerry data services. The government has given the RIM time till January 31, 2011 after which it could be asked to stop its two popular data services that is in encrypted format and cannot be deciphered by law enforcement agencies. Under such circumstances, decision to allow conditional launch of 3G services will leave the industry as well as consumers nervous,” said a senior functionary of a private telecom firm.

Suffer unsolicited mobile calls till Feb 1

New Delhi, Dec 29: For all those who think that the New Year will mean the end of unsolicited commercial calls and messages, you will have to wait a little longer. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had earlier promised that such calls would end from January 2011. Buzz up!Consumers will have to suffer a while longer to get reprieve and wait till February 1, 2011. TRAI in a statement said, "Telemarketers registration shall commence from Jan 15 and other provisions shall come into force from Feb 1. Having regard to security audit of the website and other processes involved, TRAI has found it necessary to re-determine the dates for implementation of the regulations." The telecom authority have issued a months grace period for operators and telemarketers by issuing a second amendment to its December 1 'Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations'. "We had asked the TRAI for some more time. There is a whole lot of work that has to be done in order to comply with the security concerns, including setting up of infrastructure to filter calls," said Rajan Mathew, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India.

MTNL to ink 3G network sharing deal by January

State-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd is expect to finalise agreements for sharing its third generation (3G) mobile network with private service providers by early next year.
MTNL has taken Rs 7,000 crore of loans to pay for spectrum for both 3G and Broadband Wireless Access and it would be difficult for the state sector undertaking to service such big loans without making these operations profitable. Both MTNL and BSNL were given 3G spectrum at least a year ahead of the auction for the private players. However, their services did not pick much and they could not take the first-mover’s advantage. In June, MTNL had invited bids from local telecom service providers to use its 3G mobile network. It revised the tender in September. The agreement will allow mobile users of operators without 3G spectrum in Delhi and Mumbai to roam on MTNL’s network in these circles. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Reliance Communications were the only operators who bagged 3G spectrum in Delhi and Mumbai, considered premium markets for telecom service providers.

Two private operators, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices, have recently launched 3G mobile services. These services allow mobile users to access internet and download videos and movies at a much faster pace, apart from offering video voice calls.

The company has received bids from two companies to share its 3G network in the two circles where it offers mobile services, a senior company official told Business Standard. It expects to finalise the agreements by the end of January. He wouldn’t divulge who the bidders were.

MTNL is also in talks with its sister concern, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, to share the latter’s network for providing roaming services to its 3G customers. BSNL offers mobile services across the country, barring Delhi and Mumbai circles, where MTNL operates.

MTNL expects annual revenue of about Rs 300 crore from 3G roaming agreements with other telecom operators, who could not win 3G spectrum in the Delhi and Mumbai circles in the recent auction

Mansi Taneja / New Delhi December 27, 2010, 0:38 IST

Bharti Airtel not prepared, 3G rollout to get delayed

“The network is not yet ready as testing is currently on and besides, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has to grant approval for the start of 3G video calling services. We do not want to offer 3G services to our customers in bits and pieces,” disclosed the official who declined to be named.

Bharti Airtel had earlier announced in October that it would launch its 3G services before the end of the current calendar year. Two private sector telecom companies, Tata Teleservices (TTSL) and Reliance Communications (RCom) have already announced the launch of their 3G services in select circles.

State owned telcos, Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) were allowed to launch their 3G services in 2008 to give them a headstart against private sector competition. Bharti Airtel, which bagged spectrum across 13 circles for 3G services _ auction for which was held earlier this year — is also expected to follow a similar launch strategy. BSNL and MNTL have no restriction on video calls.

“We will be launching in certain circles first, as did the other operators rather than simultaneous rollout across all the circles where we have spectrum,” said the official. No private sector telecom operator won a pan-India licence for 3G spectrum at the auction. Bharti Airtel had paid Rs 12,296 crore as licence fee for the 3G spectrum.

The company has also tied up with Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) and Ericsson for deployment of high speed packet access (HSPA) network for its 3G rollout in India. For Bangladesh, Bharti Airtel is relying on Huawei for its 3G rollout, said the official. It takes about three to six months for testing of telecom equipment to be completed.

The DoT has withheld its approval for allowing video calls over 3G networks to the private sector operators, following concerns expressed by law enforcement agencies over lack of real time interception facilities for video calls. Telecom companies have said that technology for real time interception of video calls was still under development and could take up to six months for deployment across the entire network.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is to take a final decision on allowing video calls till such time as real time interception facilities are available and convey it to the DoT which will then issue the necessary approval to the telcos. Currently, only BSNL and MTNL offer video calls to their subscribers while the two private sector telcos — TTSL and RCom — have yet to be granted approval.

Indian Telecom Network Grows by 40 Percent in 2010

Now here’s something that will bring a smile to faces still clouded by the Raja 2G scam. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology have reported that the Indian Telecommunications network has grown by a massive 40 percent this year and as of October 31, stands at a total of 742.13 million connections. 706.70 million of the connections are wireless, which now makes the Indian Telecom Network the largest wireless network in the world.
The Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012) set the end-of-plan target at 600 million connections, a figure that was surpassed 22 months early in February 2010. To better understand just how monumental these numbers are, we’ll have to compare these numbers to the ones released in 2003. The reported total number of connections was 54.6 million, a paltry figure compared to the 742.13 million it is now. Even more striking was the growth within the year, with a marked 120.85 million increase from March to October.

Other points of interest were Vodafone and Reliance hitting the 100 million subscriber mark, which follows Airtel doing the same last year. Broadband connections also showed a pretty decent increase – from 0.18 million subscribers in 2005 to 8.8 million on March 31, 2010 and finally to 10.34 million at the end of October 2010.

Speaking about the ministry’s future plans, the report said they plan to take 3G very seriously, claiming it would “completely transform the character of the internet/broadband scenario in India”. The Ministry also plans to finally roll Mobile Number Portability out on 20th January 2011, which was something the masses have wanted for absolute ages. While the service was implemented in Haryana in November, the rest of the country had to wait – something that will be rectified soon, because networks in the other areas have already started migrating to the MNP environment.

Lots of positive news in there and we hope this upward trend continues.


Future Group to roll out mobile service nationwide.Will this be the 4th SIM of Indians? Or 5th?

Future Group, which launched its T24 mobile telephone service in a partnership with Tata Teleservices Ltd, plans a national rollout in a couple of months, a top executive said.

T24, launched in June, is aimed at tapping the millions of customers visiting Future Group’s retail chains such as Big Bazaar, Pantaloons and Food Bazaar. It offers free talk-time to shoppers on purchases at these stores.

Over the past six months, the group has signed up around 350,000 subscribers in the telecom circles it operates in— Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.

“It is still a regional or a local brand, so to speak,” said Mayur Toshniwal, the group’s chief executive for telecom. “We have to make it a national brand.”

Toshniwal said the company aims to add a “few million” subscribers in the next year. “It (the T24 business) won’t be in thousands of crore (of revenue), but it definitely will be in hundreds of crore in the next 12 months,” he said, but declined to share specific revenue projections.

Toshniwal said Future Group also sees huge potential in offering other telecom services as well through Tata Teleservices, the country’s fourth largest cellular operator by subscribers.

India’s mobile phone subscriber base is growing rapidly. In October, the country added 19 million wireless subscribers, taking the overall base to 707 million, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Tata Teleservices has a similar partnership with UK-based Virgin Group for a sub-branded mobile service called Virgin, which was launched in India in 2008.

“In such a partnership, Virgin doesn’t need to have telecom’s physical infrastructure, towers, licences, spectrum, and they use the Tata’s backbone and network,” said Romal Shetty, head of telecom at consultancy KPMG, speaking about the Tata Telservices-Virgin tie-up. “...they do it on (a) revenue-sharing (basis). They just need to create a product-oriented brand.”

2G Raises a Political Storm- The Telecom RADIAshuns!!!!!

2G Raises a Political Storm- The Telecom RADIAshuns!!!!!
Dear Chums,

After a quite break for some weeks which saw unprecedented events unfolding in front of me, it was necessary to present some insider information on the latest scam ..and probably the biggest in the country- the 2G Telecom Scam!!!!

DMK's stoic support of the tainted Telecom minister A Raja just led to a more wholesome belief in the party's acronym (Dont Mess with Karunanidhi!!!!)

The Parliament was stalled for the entire winter session with some minutes of work having been recorded (mostly the time taken to decide to walkout, I guess!!!) The opposition pegs the loss to the exchequer because of the protests to be pittance compared to the scam value.

What a scam it has been!!!! One wholesome epic journey running for years with different parties and ministers and lobbyists and licensees!!!!!

Talking of the lobbyists, Neera Radia has become the toast of the Telecom town nowadays. 3Geers to her!!!!!!

With the opposition unrelenting in its demands for a JPC, with the PM Manmohan Singh unwilling to placate the opposition this time, with Ratan Tata planning to go on a letter-writing spree, with A Raja unwilling to admit to any wrong doing, with Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi still socializing with the political top shots, with Neera Radia raids showing no end- it just resulted in the following disastrous (or humorous) results:-


Mamta Banerjee has given up using cell phones till the guilty will be brought to the books.


All BJP ministers have boycotted the Telecom Services offered on the impure 2G spectrum air. By some strange logic- all of them have subscribed to foreign telecom services via Thuraya - the satellite phone services!!!!


Congress is trying to check if it can get a wisp of any scam in procuring of the Thuraya phones and the source of the payments made to this company!!!


Baba Ramdev has condemned the usage of mobile phones and is planning a grand yagnya which will purify the air which was polluted by the scam. Environmentalists peg the damage caused to the environs by the fumes and smoke emanating from the altar much more than the 2G scam.


Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt announced their next-out-of-the-factory product called Aye Raja!!! starring Emraan Hashmi and a new comer Meera Wadia. Mahesh Bhatt announced that this movie would be a slice of life depcition of the scam and Emraan will essay the role of a politician who stumbles from the path of righteousness and ends up with a biggest scam to rock the country. The female lead will essay the role of a corporate lobbyist who woos the minister and influences him to award incoherent licenses. The movie is to be picturised in some scenic locations across the globe and will have some mind boggling special effects. Already a lot of news is being made about an important scene where Emraan refuses a bribe offered to him by a Telecom company. What a special effect!!!!When asked whether the kissathon will continue with this movie, Emraan mentioned," There are some bold scenes in the movie which are pivotal to the script of the film. They have been shot very aesthetically and are intended to take the movie further and to a new level".


Lalooji has come up with another whopper!!!! He has alleged that his cattle stock have been rendered carcinogenic because of the impurity of the airwaves sold at deflated prices to benefit some involved parties. Indian Medical Association is trying to check the veracity of the claim by examining the cattle and NIMHANS is planning to do the same with their owner.


Ratan Tata has developed a hobby out of writing to Government departments regarding other Tata Group issues in anticipation of opening up another Pandora's box akin to Telecom.


A Raja recently got an award from Air India for making the most round trips between Chennai and Delhi. Since the scam surfaced, Raja has travelled endlessly between Chennai and Delhi for CBI investigations etc. If not airwaves, be it airways then, for Raja!!!!


Raja has put a stay order on Aye Raja movie release. He has asked the courts that he be allowed a privy viewing and based on his consent, the movie should be appropriately edited or censored. The Bhatts have vehemently refuted Raja's claim stating that the movie was an "inspired" work of fiction. Raja has also demanded that the movie be dubbed in Tamil for his viewing.


Neera Radia is amongst that last 4 contestants in the season 4 of Bigg Boss which is being anchored by Abhishek Bachchan and Anil Ambani. What an Idea sirjee!!!! She has also bagged some big deals across the Telecom world.

11.Well, what about the general public and the services offered by the Telecom companies????
It continues to be normal as if nothing happened. Anil Ambani bought back huge proportions of his RCOM stocks during the peak of the scam and is now selling them back happily and laughing away to the banks!!!!

Neera Radia has decided to venture into greener pastures of Telecom Consultancy to foreign governments. Supposedly her initial clients include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Zambia etc.

As for A Raja, he has been nominated to the World Telecom Forum as India's representative created towards having uniform telecom policies for the next generation of services. How, if you may wonder? That is the Congress way of punishment!!!


Spread of 3G telephony to push VAS industry in 2011

NEW DELHI: The spread of 3G mobile telephony will bolster the growth of multi-billion dollar value added services (VAS) market through innovative content and lead to affordable handsets attracting users in both rural and urban areas, says a study.

"The key drivers for the growth of 3G in India will be innovative content, improved customer services and increased affordability of handsets as well as availability of value added services," said global consultancy firm KPMG.

"These drivers will help ensure growth of 3G not just in urban areas but in rural areas as well," it added.

Currently, the VAS market is worth Rs 110-120 billion (Rs 11-12,000 crore), about 10 per cent of the total revenues of the wireless industry.

KPMG said this share is likely to increase to 12-13 per cent during 2011.

It added that the growth would be driven by increasing focus of operators on VAS in view of continuous fall in voice tariffs, greater penetration of feature-rich handsets, spread of vernacular content and increased adoption of applications.

Besides, new areas like m-commerce and m-advertising will gather momentum in the coming years.

KPMG said new technologies and advance of more countries towards 3G and 4G services are providing a clearer path for mobile VAS grow exponentially.

Emerging economies such as China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil and Russia are expected to increase global VAS revenues, it added.

2010 in Review–The Year When Mobile Startups Flew ‘Kites’

What about Kites? Well, Kites is a Bollywood movie that carried huge expectation, but went bust on the day 1 itself.

Flying Kites: In Love With Operator
Something similar happened with Mobile/VAS ecosystem in India and most importantly, with the Indian telecom industry.

Inflated Subscriber Numbers
500 million? 600 million?

Telecom operators reported skyrocketing number of 682 million subscribers (i.e. 58% penetration) in the month of September 2010.

Since spectrum allotment is done in proportion to subscriber base, telecom operators have enough incentive to inflate this number. September of 2010, TRAI shared the actual subscriber numbers which stands at ~70% of the reported numbers, i.e. 478 million.

2G Scam
The recent 2G scam is one of the worst scams in the country and while government demystifies the real story, expect lesser investment in this space.
Apart from the monetary loss (INR 1.76 L Crores), this has also brought shame and most importantly, eroded the confidence in India’s telecom story.

“When any industry comes under scanner, all the stakeholders also come under the scanner… It does affect credibility.” –[Quote by Spice Mobility/ASSOCHAM president, Dilip Modi].

Mobile Startups : Funding Anyone?
Big Became Bigger – that’s the sweet and short summary of Indian mobile VAS industry.

There hasn’t been a lot of action in funding space, as small players haven’t been able to go big and the good old story of 70:30 (Operator:VAS player revenue share) continues.

Aside, one of the most heartbreaking news for mobile startups was shutdown of Bharti Airtel Innovation fund (and lack of other funding stories in VAS/App space). And to add to this, some of the significant funding has happened from VCs outside India (which says a lot about Indian investors’ approach towards this ecosystem).

■Eko Raises Series A from US Based 4B Capital
■InMobi Raises $8mn from KPCB and Sherpalo Ventures
Does this mean that mobile startups need to go roaming (and can find a better match outside India, when it comes to funding)?

What about App Developers?

2010 witnessed the rise of mobile app stores in the country. Right from Aircel to Airtel – everybody has one, but no one is talking about monetization. Everybody is talking about their size, but no one is talking about the ecosystem or the economy of app stores.

There hardly are details of Operator’s roadmap regarding app stores and how are they going to work with app developers on the same. So far, it seems like a Scatter Gun Strategy.

The Good News
- Finally, 3G auction went through and we have already started seeing launch of 3G services. Content is the key here and expect app startups to rise to the occasion.

- Rise of Micromax. An inspiring ‘Made in India’ story, Micromax has certainly arrived and the company has been gaining ground owing to its foray into Android devices. The reason Micromax growth is so important for others to take note is not just because of the rising market share, but because of the fact that company has managed to find a product-to-market fit in an already crowded market (dominated by MNC brands).

To summarize, mobile VAS/APP ecosystem needs a fresh approach and most of the investors in this space aren’t the ones who will risk their $$s in one app, one vas offering. And that’s tricky for app/vas startups as it calls for dilution.

But the journey continues.

What’s your take on this ecosystem? What will 2011 mean for VAS/App startups

MTS expands Telecom services in UP East and UP West

MTS has announced the expansion of its mobile telephony services in UP East and UP West Circles. This is all set to further add to the company’s customer base, which now stands at over 8 million voice and over 400,000 mobile broadband customers. The Russian Government recently picked up approximately 17% stake in SSTL for $ 600 million US.

Announcing the launch of MTS in UP East and UP West Circles, Sergey Savchenko, Chief Financial Officer, Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited (SSTL) said, “The launch of telephony services by MTS in UP East and UP West has further expanded our national footprint. MTS would now be able to address the telecom needs of over 80% of India’s population and about 92% of the data market potential in the country. This truly represents a very exciting opportunity for MTS.”

Indian Telecom Subscriber base reaches 742.12 Million –18.98 mobile subscriber additions!

What ever the situation, there is one thing you can always count on – the growth of Mobile subscribers in India. Another stellar month and another big bunch of subscriber additions, 18.98 Million to be precise.

As per the latest TRAI report for month of October 2010, Mobile subscriber base has now reached 706.69 million taking overall tally of Telecom Subscribers in India to staggering 742 Million taking the overall tele-density in India to 62.51.

Highlights of Telecom Subscribers [October 2010]
■Total Telephone subscriber base reaches 742.12 Million
■Wireless subscription reaches 706.69 Million
■Wireline subscription declines to 35.43 Million
■18.98 Million new additions in wireless
■Overall Tele+density reaches 62.51
■Broadband subscription is 10.52 million

Unlike last month, there is not surprises in subscriber addition numbers. India’s number 1 telecom operator Bharti add 15.81% of all the subscribers added. Vodafone adds 13.09 percent followed by Uninor (which I must say is doing rather well) at 13.07 percent. It is surprising that Tata has managed to add only 9.20 percent of overall subscribers!
Bharti consolidates its number one position and now has more than 1/5th of total Indian Mobile market (20.70 percent). Reliance (16.89) and Vodafone (16.70) are still running neck to neck. Tata is a distant 4th with 11.44 percent market share followed by Idea (10.76%).

Wireline Segment Growth
The negative growth in wireline segment continues with subscriber base decline from 35.57 Million in September-2010 to 35.43 Million at the end of October-2010. BSNL/MTNL, two PSU operators hold 83.31% of the Wireline market share. Overall Wireline teledensity is 2.98

Broadband Subscriber Growth
Total Broadband subscriber base increased slightly from 10.29 million in
September-2010 to 10.52 million in October-2010, there by showing a growth of