Telenor writes off assets worth $681 million in India (India, Norway)

Telenor ASA has decided to write-down the remaining fixed and intangible assets in India amounting to $681 million. According to the company, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in February to cancel Uninor’s licenses and the recent recommendation from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding the 2G license re-auction, the uncertainty regarding the company’s [...]

Telenor writes off assets worth $681 million in India (India, Norway)

Telenor ASA has decided to write-down the remaining fixed and intangible assets in India amounting to $681 million. According to the company, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in February to cancel Uninor’s licenses and the recent recommendation from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding the 2G license re-auction, the uncertainty regarding the company’s [...]

4G First: Bharti Airtel leverages its first-mover advantage

Early April, Bharti Airtel became the first telecom operator to introduce 4G services in India. The services, launched in Kolkata, not only offer rich content, but also allow superfast access to video streaming, multiple chatting, instant photo uploading, etc. Further, 4G is expected to facilitate provision of services such as e-governance, e-health and e-education.

“The launch is a major milestone for India and Airtel. Over the past 15 years, Airtel has been at the forefront of the Indian telecom revolution and has set the technology trends in the country by aligning with global standards. High speed wireless broadband has the potential to transform the Indian telecom space by providing a robust platform for building the country’s digital economy and empowering the masses. With a large pool of young people, India will see a massive growth in the consumption of data and content over mobile devices as well as the proliferation of mobile commerce. We look forward to Airtel playing a pivotal role in shaping this exciting future for India,” noted Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti Airtel.

In 2010, Airtel had successfully bid for broadband wireless access (BWA) licence spectrum in the Kolkata, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra (excluding Mumbai) circles. The company is now working towards rolling out networks in the Karnataka and Maharashtra circles. It has already awarded the contract for  long term evolution-time division duplex (LTE-TDD) deployment in Maharashtra to Nokia Siemens Networks.

Since its 4G services were kicked off on cutting-edge LTE-TDD networks, this  makes India one of the first countries in the world to commercially deploy this technology. “We are confident that others will follow in this direction and participate in our pioneering efforts in making LTE-TDD the de facto 4G standard in India,” Mittal said.

Having got a headstart over its rival Reliance Infotel, Bharti Airtel plans to leverage its first mover advantage. Available on both prepaid and post-paid connections, Airtel currently offers three plans – Breakfree, Breakfree Max and Breakfree Ultra – with rentals ranging from Rs 999 to Rs 1,999. According to industry experts, the services seem to be targeted at high-end customers with the rentals and charges being fairly steep. While most operators currently offer 6 GB of 3G data with a speed of 3.6 Mbps at Rs 850 per month, Airtel offers the same at Rs 999. Moreover, while other operators offer 10 GB of data download at Rs 1,250 per month, Airtel is offering 9 GB of high speed data for around Rs 1,400 per month and 18 GB of 4G data for nearly Rs 2,000 per month.

Also, since the 4G ecosystem is still untested, 4G devices are not easily available in the market. Airtel will be offering services initially through a USB-based 4G data card dongle and a Wi-Fi gateway, also priced on the higher side, at Rs 7,999 and Rs 7,750 respectively. According to analysts, the average cost of 3G or EVDO dongles in India ranges from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500.

Price may, therefore, become an inhibiting factor in the adoption of 4G services. “For smooth adoption of 4G services, affordability and availability of devices are going to be key determinants. While data plans are being offered at competitive rates, the 4G dongle price is nearly eight times that of an EVDO dongle and three times that of a 3G dongle,” says Abhishek Chauhan, senior consultant, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan. However, as Chauhan observes “With the increase in competition, this should be taken care of. The current pricing of Airtel’s 4G services at such high tariffs is to ensure the coexistence of 3G and 4G as well as the monetisation of 3G services. Moreover, 3G also benefits from a better developed ecosystem in comparison to LTE as the ecosystem for the latter is at a nascent stage.” Most analysts expect 4G tariffs to decline significantly in the next six months as more players launch these services.

In the broadband arena, Airtel’s biggest competitor will be Reliance Infotel, Mukesh Ambani’s vehicle for re-entering the wireless space. With an investment of Rs 220 billion earmarked for its broadband business, Ambani will join the fray, with ambitious targets and competitive plans.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) bought Infotel Broadband, the only company to win pan-Indian 4G spectrum, a day after the auctions. In contrast, Bharti has 4G licences for only four circles, and its attempts to add more through buyouts and tie-ups have not materialised so far due to regulatory hurdles.

Besides, Reliance Infotel followed up the licence acquisition with a string of content tie-ups through 2011. These include a Rs 40 billion deal that provides RIL preferential access to all of Network18s content.

Concerned about its limited presence, Bharti Airtel has requested the government to hold another round of BWA spectrum auctions later this year. The Cellular Operators’ Association of India has lent support to Bharti Airtel’s demand for a quick auction.

Meanwhile, the company is reportedly in talks to buy US-based chipmaker Qualcomm’s 4G spectrum for Rs 60 billion, an acquisition that will facilitate the launch of its 4G services in the key markets of Delhi and Mumbai

4G First: Bharti Airtel leverages its first-mover advantage

Early April, Bharti Airtel became the first telecom operator to introduce 4G services in India. The services, launched in Kolkata, not only offer rich content, but also allow superfast access to video streaming, multiple chatting, instant photo uploading, etc. Further, 4G is expected to facilitate provision of services such as e-governance, e-health and e-education.

“The launch is a major milestone for India and Airtel. Over the past 15 years, Airtel has been at the forefront of the Indian telecom revolution and has set the technology trends in the country by aligning with global standards. High speed wireless broadband has the potential to transform the Indian telecom space by providing a robust platform for building the country’s digital economy and empowering the masses. With a large pool of young people, India will see a massive growth in the consumption of data and content over mobile devices as well as the proliferation of mobile commerce. We look forward to Airtel playing a pivotal role in shaping this exciting future for India,” noted Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti Airtel.

In 2010, Airtel had successfully bid for broadband wireless access (BWA) licence spectrum in the Kolkata, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra (excluding Mumbai) circles. The company is now working towards rolling out networks in the Karnataka and Maharashtra circles. It has already awarded the contract for  long term evolution-time division duplex (LTE-TDD) deployment in Maharashtra to Nokia Siemens Networks.

Since its 4G services were kicked off on cutting-edge LTE-TDD networks, this  makes India one of the first countries in the world to commercially deploy this technology. “We are confident that others will follow in this direction and participate in our pioneering efforts in making LTE-TDD the de facto 4G standard in India,” Mittal said.

Having got a headstart over its rival Reliance Infotel, Bharti Airtel plans to leverage its first mover advantage. Available on both prepaid and post-paid connections, Airtel currently offers three plans – Breakfree, Breakfree Max and Breakfree Ultra – with rentals ranging from Rs 999 to Rs 1,999. According to industry experts, the services seem to be targeted at high-end customers with the rentals and charges being fairly steep. While most operators currently offer 6 GB of 3G data with a speed of 3.6 Mbps at Rs 850 per month, Airtel offers the same at Rs 999. Moreover, while other operators offer 10 GB of data download at Rs 1,250 per month, Airtel is offering 9 GB of high speed data for around Rs 1,400 per month and 18 GB of 4G data for nearly Rs 2,000 per month.

Also, since the 4G ecosystem is still untested, 4G devices are not easily available in the market. Airtel will be offering services initially through a USB-based 4G data card dongle and a Wi-Fi gateway, also priced on the higher side, at Rs 7,999 and Rs 7,750 respectively. According to analysts, the average cost of 3G or EVDO dongles in India ranges from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500.

Price may, therefore, become an inhibiting factor in the adoption of 4G services. “For smooth adoption of 4G services, affordability and availability of devices are going to be key determinants. While data plans are being offered at competitive rates, the 4G dongle price is nearly eight times that of an EVDO dongle and three times that of a 3G dongle,” says Abhishek Chauhan, senior consultant, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan. However, as Chauhan observes “With the increase in competition, this should be taken care of. The current pricing of Airtel’s 4G services at such high tariffs is to ensure the coexistence of 3G and 4G as well as the monetisation of 3G services. Moreover, 3G also benefits from a better developed ecosystem in comparison to LTE as the ecosystem for the latter is at a nascent stage.” Most analysts expect 4G tariffs to decline significantly in the next six months as more players launch these services.

In the broadband arena, Airtel’s biggest competitor will be Reliance Infotel, Mukesh Ambani’s vehicle for re-entering the wireless space. With an investment of Rs 220 billion earmarked for its broadband business, Ambani will join the fray, with ambitious targets and competitive plans.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) bought Infotel Broadband, the only company to win pan-Indian 4G spectrum, a day after the auctions. In contrast, Bharti has 4G licences for only four circles, and its attempts to add more through buyouts and tie-ups have not materialised so far due to regulatory hurdles.

Besides, Reliance Infotel followed up the licence acquisition with a string of content tie-ups through 2011. These include a Rs 40 billion deal that provides RIL preferential access to all of Network18s content.

Concerned about its limited presence, Bharti Airtel has requested the government to hold another round of BWA spectrum auctions later this year. The Cellular Operators’ Association of India has lent support to Bharti Airtel’s demand for a quick auction.

Meanwhile, the company is reportedly in talks to buy US-based chipmaker Qualcomm’s 4G spectrum for Rs 60 billion, an acquisition that will facilitate the launch of its 4G services in the key markets of Delhi and Mumbai

Mobiles for the Masses: High demand for low-cost handsets

Mobiles for the Masses: High demand for ...

In February 2012, amidst much fanfare, Samsung unveiled its Champ Deluxe Duos dual-SIM handset. The device was feature rich and, importantly, was affordable. It came equipped with a 2.8 inch display, a 1.3 megapixel camera and the Smart Touchwiz user interface, and offered access to various social networking sites. It also included features such as Samsung’s ChatOn, a multi-platform instant messaging application, a virtual QWERTY keypad and push mail service with Activesync. The device was priced competitively, at Rs 4,790.

The Samsung model is one of the many low-cost, feature-packed offerings that are available today in the Indian market. Handset makers such as Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have flooded the market with handsets priced at Rs 1,500 or less to drive growth in an extremely competitive and price-conscious market like India. The handsets themselves have come a long way, from simple devices with monochrome screens and limited functionality to feature-rich colour screen offerings.

Competition in this space intensified in mid-2010, with the entry of home-grown players such as Videocon, MAXX Mobiles, Micromax and Intex. These companies had a clear strategy, which was to provide handsets loaded with various features at affordable prices to tap the potential at the bottom of the pyramid.

The combined efforts of these players seem to be paying off. According to research firm Gartner, low-cost devices accounted for over 75 per cent of total device sales in the first three quarters of 2011.

Going forward, the sales of such handsets are likely to witness a sharp increase, from 68 million units in 2009-10 to 129 million by 2013, according to a study conducted by the US-based information and communication technology consulting and research firm Strategy Analytics. Another reason behind the increasing demand for such handsets is the fact that the next level of mobile growth is expected to come from the rural areas. Handset-makers are thus anticipating a potential market from a segment that is by and large looking at low-cost, easy-to-use and function-rich handsets.

tele.net takes a look at the low-cost devices launched recently in the market...

Operators

Vodafone India’s Smart 3G Android phone is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S1 processor and functions on the Android 2.2.1 OS. Priced at Rs 4,995, the device enables customers to avail of several Android applications. It has a 2.8 inch capacitive touch display; a 2 megapixel camera with video recording facility; expandable memory up to 32 GB; stereo FM; support for MP3 and MP4 file formats; and integrated Google services such as speech-to-text, push mail, Google Maps, Google Talk and YouTube.

Beetel Teletech has launched its GD-470 dual-SIM touchscreen mobile phone, priced at Rs 3,300. This device supports Bluetooth connectivity; file formats like 3GP, AVI, MP4 up to 25fps and an MP3 player. Other features include a 1.3 megapixel camera, a built-in FM radio, expandable memory up to 8 GB and access to Beetel World that offers social networking applications and infotainment features such as Facebook, Snaptu, Mig 33, Yahoo!, ibibo, Vuclip, Reuters, Hungama and books published by Penguin India.

Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited has expanded its handset portfolio with the launch of two Android-based smartphones priced below Rs 5,000. The MTS MTag 3.1 and the MTS Livewire are powered by Qualcomm’s mobile processors and are designed to work on the CDMA EVDO REVA network. The MTS MTag 3.1 comes packed with an audio and video player, a 3.2 megapixel camera and access to Google Mail, YouTube, Google Talk and Google Maps. The MTS Livewire features a 3D graphics hardware accelerator chipset, touchscreen display, 256 MB RAM, 512 MB ROM and a 3.2 megapixel rear-facing autofocus camera.

Handset vendors

Nokia India

Nokia India’s latest offerings, the dual-SIM C2-03, C2-06 and the C2-02 touch-and-type phones, are priced at Rs 4,289, Rs 5,349 and Rs 4,949 respectively. The C2-03 features a TFT screen with 56,000 colours, handwriting recognition facility, a phonebook with a capacity of 1,000 entries and Class 12 GPRS. Nokia’s C2-06 comes with 10 MB of internal memory, a 2 megapixel camera, video recording facility, support for email and push mail, WAP 2.0 and dual SIM cards. The C2-02 has a 65,000 colour screen, a 2 megapixel camera, support for Java and social networking sites, an inbuilt organiser, and predictive text input.

Spice Mobility

Spice Mobility’s Samba and Carnival music handsets are priced at Rs 3,599. The Samba handset comes equipped with a 2.2 inch QVGA screen, while the Carnival has a QWERTY keypad. Both handsets pack in a 1.3 megapixel camera with support for video recording and playback. The handsets also feature include flash support (up to 8 GB), a free 2 GB memory card, a built-in FM radio with recording facility, a 3.5 mm audio jack, and a 950 mAh battery that gives four hours of talktime.

Colors Mobile

Colors Mobile has introduced its F-16 Fighter dual-SIM mobile phone. The F-16 Fighter has an inbuilt MP4 video player, music player, FM radio, torch and games, a high resolution camera, auto call-recording facility, and expandable memory up to 4 GB. The device is priced at Rs 1,099.

iBall

iBall’s Fab 9 handset is priced at Rs 2,799. It has a 2.4 inch display, a built-in music and video player, and FM radio. It also supports dual SIM cards, up to 1,000 contacts, and English and Hindi interfaces. Its other features include a 1.3 megapixel camera with digital zoom and multi-shot mode, support for Bluetooth, WAP and GPRS connectivity, and a built-in e-book reader.

The company has also launched two other mobiles phones, the IPS-261 and Long B261. These dual-SIM phones offer over 18 hours of talktime with a long battery life, a 2.6 inch screen display and dual cameras (a 2 megapixel primary camera with digital zoom and flash and a 0.3 megapixel secondary camera). These phones also have built-in entertainment options, such as a video player, an MP3 player, and wireless FM radio with recording facility. Both support microSD cards, Bluetooth, EDGE and GPRS connectivity, and feature a built-in e-book reader. While the iBall IPS-261 is priced at Rs 3,599, the Long B261 phone costs Rs 2,999.

Intex Technologies

Intex has launched the Avatar 3D touch-phone, priced at Rs 3,690. The handset packs in a 2.8 inch stereoscopic display that requires 3D glasses (bundled) to view 3D content, a one-touch 2D image/video to 3D converter, support for dual SIM cards, and a 2 megapixel camera with LED flash. The Avatar handset also comes with 10 preloaded films and games on the complimentary 4 GB microSD card and applications for accessing Google, MSN, Yahoo! and Facebook. The device also has English and Hindi support, and features the Intex Zone, which offers its users several applications on one platform.

MAXX Mobiles

MAXX Mobiles’ Zippy (MT105) device features a 2.4 inch TFT touchscreen, a digital camera with LED flash and support for dual SIM cards. It is powered by a 1000 mAh battery, offers up to 4.5 hours of talk time and up to 350 hours of standby time. Its other features include a built-in FM radio, an audio player with support for MP3, AAC and WAV file formats, and a video player that supports MP4, 3GPP and AVI file formats. Priced at Rs 2,599, the handset comes with a complimentary 4 GB memory card that is preloaded with multimedia content including music and videos. The phone has expandable memory up to 8 GB and supports connectivity options such as Bluetooth and USB mass storage.

Chaze

The K.R. Mangalam Group’s mobile handset division, Chaze, has launched the C 249 multimedia handset. The device houses a public announcement system and is priced at Rs 2,250. It also features a 1.3 megapixel camera, an inbuilt FM radio, a video and MP 3 player, a 3.5 mm audio jack, support for Bluetooth and facilities like blacklist, answering machine and auto call recording. The C 249 also packs in web applications such as Facebook Chat, Twitter and Yahoo! Messenger besides a storage capacity for 1,500 names and 300 text messages.

SICT Mobile

SICT Mobile has launched the SICT iV180 dual-SIM handset priced at Rs 1,675. The handset supports several audio and video formats along with 16 GB of external memory, wireless FM, a 1.3 megapixel camera, call recording facility, and Bluetooth A2DP. Its other features include a USB cable, blacklist facility and mobile tracking facility, and a built-in torch.

LAVA Mobiles

Lava Mobiles has joined hands with MTV India to launch the A 16 MTV device. Priced at Rs 4,500, the handset’s screen supports IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel technology, a 3.2 megapixel camera, Yamaha speakers and provides access to Facebook.

Zen Mobiles

The company’s dual-SIM device, the M-75 is priced at Rs 2,399 and packs in a 2.4 inch display screen, a 3.42 megapixel camera; and support for call, music and video recording, and Bluetooth technology. Its other features include a built-in FM radio, a 3.5mm jack, and up to 16 GB of expandable memory.

IVK Mobiles

The latest offering from the company is the dual-SIM iV 171 device. This handset supports both 900 and 1800 GSM bands, and costs Rs 2,299. The iV 171 packs in a dual-language keypad (English and Hindi), a 2.4 inch QVGA screen, a 1.3 megapixel camera, and supports audio file formats such as MP3, WAV, IDI and AMR. Its other features include built-in speakers and an audio and video recorder with up to 8 GB of data storage capacity.

G’Five Mobile

G’Five Mobile has launched three new handsets under its Movie King range – the E720, the E780 and the E505. The three phones come bundled with a 4 GB card that is preloaded with 20 movies, music videos, ringtones, etc. The phones feature a dedicated key for instant access to Movie King content. The E720 has a 2.4 inch touchscreen display, a dual camera (3.2 megapixel rear camera with flash at the back and a VGA front camera), a 1300 mAh battery, short range wireless connectivity with A2DP, support for wireless FM, a music and video player, up to 16 GB of expandable memory, an LED torch and a G-sensor.

The E780 is a touchscreen phone with a 3.2 inch display and a 16:9 aspect ratio, dual cameras (a 3.2 megapixel camera with flash at the back and a VGA front camera), a 1050 mAh battery, wireless FM, and a music and video player. The E505 has a 2.2 inch display, dual cameras (a 1.3 megapixel back camera and a VGA front camera), a 1000 mAh battery, and expandable memory up to 16 GB. The E720, the E780 and the E505 are priced at Rs 2,909, Rs 3,689 and Rs 2,219 respectively.

As is evident, the demand for low-cost handsets is on the rise. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years as the spread of mobile telephony covers the country’s rural and remote areas.