Convergence Plus
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Reliance Jio tower tenancies to help Bharti Infratel

Reliance Jio tower tenancies to help Bharti InfratelBharti Infratel is expected to be a big beneficiary of likely incremental tenancy additions by Reliance Jio Infocomm over the next nine months, which, in turn, could offset the impact of possible tenancy losses triggered by the merger of Idea CellularBSE 0.06 % and Vodafone India, analysts and sector experts said. Incremental business given by Jio to Bharti Infratel “is likely to offset any (negative) impact of a potential 40,000-odd tenancy cancellations” on the latter triggered by the Idea-Vodafone India merger, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said in a note seen by ET.

The global brokerage, in fact, expects “Idea and Vodafone to pay tenancy cancellation penalties,” post-merger, to Bharti Infratel, which would further minimise any negative impact for Bharti’s tower arm. Analysts expect Bharti Infratel to gain 50% of the incremental market share if Jio expands its countrywide base of 4G cell sites from the present 1.2 lakh to 1.5 lakh in the next nine months, and eventually achieves its 2 lakh cell-sites target quickly. After slumping soon after the Vodafone-Idea merger announcement, the Infratel stock has risen over 20%. It closed 4.1% higher at Rs 394.45 on the Bombay Stock Exchange on Friday.

According to the US brokerage, Jio has 1.2 lakh cell sites on its network, and “it has indicated that all incremental sites are being leased out to third-party tower companies”. At a recent earnings call, Bharti Infratel managing director D S Rawat said, "Jio had become a meaningful part of the tower company’s new (tenancy) additions". Bharti Infratel, he said, is already "getting a large part of the (tenancies) business from Jio, which wants to go up to 2 lakh cell sites".

According to a tower industry expert, any 4G operator would need a larger number of sites to deliver higher data speeds to customers. This is since unlike voice, a 4G player can give better data speeds only at a closer distance to the cell sites, which is why someone like a Jio would require a larger number of sites. BankAm-Merrill Lynch, in fact, estimates that the combined share of Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers’ tenancies from Jio would increase from “the present 38K to 53K” if the Mukesh Ambani-led telco reaches even 1.5 lakh mobile towers in the next nine months.

Bharti Infratel owns 42% of India’s largest tower firm, Indus, and its consolidated tower base, including its share in Indus Towers, stood at nearly 90,840 end-June 2017. Analysts, however, cautioned that Jio’s contribution to Bharti Infratel’s tenancy growth could eventually slow down as the country’s youngest mobile carrier is expected to have “reasonably strong coverage after a couple of quarters”.

Nevertheless, they expect Jio’s race for 2 lakh cell sites to compel market leader Bharti Airtel to also spend more on its 4G network to maintain competitive advantage, which could also prove a blessing for Bharti Infratel. At present, roughly 85% of Bharti Infratel’s revenue comes from the big three telcos – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea. Going forward, sector experts see Bharti Infratel’s core margins improving amid more stable rental expenses coupled with the fact that Jio’s tenancies are likely to come in at a higher margin.

Bharti Infratel’s core margins have remained flattish, rising by merely 100 basis points (bps) over the last nine quarters, primarily due to an increase in rent expenses, which has increased faster than revenue growth, said BankAm-Merrill Lynch. (Source: Economic Times)

BSNL eyes 700 Mhz band spectrum to launch 5G, to forge alliance with ZTE

BSNL eyes 700 Mhz band spectrum to launch 5G, to forge alliance with ZTE'The telco is entering into an alliance with Chinese gear maker ZTE, following a similar partnership with Finnish firm Nokia, for 5G services.'
State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. expects to get the government’s approval soon for using airwaves in 700 MHz band for offering 4G services, and 5G services in the future, chairman Anupam Shrivastava said.The state-run telco has written to the Department of Telecom (DoT) to allocate airwaves in the 700 MHz band for rolling out 4G services. “Six slots of 5 MHz are already available in the 700 MHz band and we have asked for a slot to be allocated to us. We are looking at it also for offering ultra-high speed 5G services in the future,” Shrivastava said.

The telco is entering into an alliance with Chinese gear maker ZTE, following a similar partnership with Finnish firm Nokia, for 5G services, the BSNL chairman said. “For 5G services in rural and dense urban areas, 700 MHz, sub-700 MHz and unlicensed bands such as 2.5 GHz and 5.2 GHz will be used for Internet of Things (IoT) services in India,” he said. BSNL plans to soon sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ZTE under the ‘5G and beyond’ programme, as part of which the latter will provide most recent technological updates and exchange ideas with the telco.

“The alliance (with ZTE) will be non-commercial with no obligations and based on knowledge sharing on what is happening worldwide,” Shrivastava said. ZTE recently announced doubling of its annual investment in 5G research and development to 2 billion yuan ($295.5 million) from 1 billion yuan last year.

In March, Nokia entered into a similar collaboration with BSNL to leverage its global experience in 5G-related industry initiatives focusing on software defined network (SDN) and multi-access edge computing.

In India, the use case of 5G technology may be different from that in Europe or rest of the world, according to Shrivastava, who said that in Indian cities, Internet of Things (IoT) could prove critical for waste management. Bharti chairman Sunil Mittal had said last month that 5G would come under aggressive focus and the evolution of 4G to 5G would be led by cross-industry collaboration.

“Globally, by 2020, 5G standardisation will be done including in China, which would lead with some early roll-outs. We expect 5G launch by 2021-22 in the Indian market, which is developing quickly driven by connectivity,” GSMA director general Mats Granryd said.

With India gearing up to adopt 5G technology in tandem with countries such as China, Japan, Korea and the US, telecom minister Manoj Sinha has said that the new technology will speed up the digital transformation in a number of industries, enabling IoT and automation. (Source: ETtelecom)

Amazon looks N-E for sales growth

Amazon looks N-E for sales growthE-commerce major Amazon is planning to ramp up operations in the North-East (NE) this year as part of its growth strategy. According Akhil Saxena, Vice-President, India Customer Fulfilment, Amazon India, good demand has been noticed from the region and categories such as fashion (apparel and so on), consumer durables, personal care and consumables are seen as the demand drivers. “The focus is on expanding our delivery logisitics and ramping up operations. We have seen demand go up there (in the N-E),” Saxena told BusinessLine.

He, however, did not disclose how much of Amazon’s total traffic comes from the N-E, or the investment numbers. A Google Trends study for the last 12 months shows that six of the seven North-East States – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur – along with Sikkim, feature among the top 10 States that search for the term “online shopping”. Assam features relatively lower on the list.

The other five related search terms include ‘india online shopping’, ‘amazon online’, ‘amazon shopping’, and ‘flipkart shopping online’. Currently, Amazon has 2 lakh sellers, a 160 per cent growth year-on-year.

Incidentally, the e-tailer is also exploring the possibility of setting up a fulfilment centre (loosely, a warehouse) in one of the North-East States. Presently, it has 37 such warehouses. Plans are afoot to add four more over the next four weeks. With these 41 fulfilment centres, the total available space is expected to stand at 13 million cubic feet.

“Wait and watch,” Saxena said, on being asked if any of the upcoming fulfilment centres were in the North East. Amazon operates under the marketplace model, ie it acts as an aggregator between buyers and sellers without actually owning the goods. It earns a fee-based income from the warehouse services.

Own delivery arm
The e-commerce major is also looking to increase the ambit of its own delivery arm, Amazon Logistics. The delivery provider currently services 400-odd pincodes between Meghalaya and Assam in the North East, and is exploring entry into Tripura. “We will expand the number of pincodes to be serviced through Amazon Logisitics,” Saxena added. Other than the North-East, it services Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Nationally, Amazon services 19,000 pin codes either by itself, or through third-party partners, including India Post. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Amazon offers $70-$80 million for FreeCharge

Amazon offers $70-$80 million for FreeCharge Online ecommerce giant Amazon has made a late bid for FreeCharge, the digital payments platform owned by troubled ecommerce marketplace Snapdeal, a development that comes at a time when the Gurgaon-based company is also in discussions to sell its payments unit to Axis BankBSE 0.50 % and telecom operator Bharti Airtel’s mobile wallet Airtel Money. According to two sources aware of the development, Amazon’s bid is in the range of $70-$80 million (Rs 466 crore- Rs 532 crore), with a term sheet signed by the Seattle-headquartered ecommerce behemoth and Jasper Infotech, which owns and operates both Snapdeal and Free-Charge, last week.

The latest set of developments comes a little over two weeks after Axis Bank, the country’s third-largest private sector lender, emerged as one of the frontrunners to acquire FreeCharge for about $60-$65 million, as reported by ET in its edition dated July 8. Rival Paytm has also held talks to acquire Free-Charge, and has made a bid of $10 million, ET had reported.

However, the sources cited above also said that not-withstanding Amazon’s late, but higher bid for FreeCharge, Axis Bank remained the favourite to acquire the digital payments platform that also competes with the likes of MobiKwik. When contacted by ET, An Amazon spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on rumours and speculations”.

Separately, Jasper Infotech spokespersons did not respond to an ET questionnaire seeking clarity. A successful sale of FreeCharge will provide much-needed cash to the Snapdeal coffers, giving it critical runway of a few more months and allowing it to survive as a potentially standalone business.

According to the sources, if successful in its endeavour to acquire FreeCharge, Amazon will most likely roll FreeCharge into its existing payments entity, Amazon Pay. This, however, could not be independently verified by ET. The online retail giant, which has committed to invest $5 billion in its local operations, recently pumped Rs 130 crore more into Amazon Pay India, as reported by Times of India earlier this month, citing regulatory filings submitted to the Registrar of Companies.

Prior to that in April earlier this year, ET reported that Amazon India had been granted license by the Reserve Bank of India to operate a pre-paid payment instrument or wallet. The central bank issued the wallet licence in the name of Amazon Online Distribution Services, which also operates Amazon Pay that allows users to transact with offline partners of Amazon and online for Amazon’s marketplace services on and Amazon Now.

FreeCharge was acquired by Jasper in 2015 in a cash-and-stock deal estimated at $400-450 million, in what was then the largest acquisition in the Indian startup space. However, the payments unit has been seeking a buyer for several months now, even as its parent negotiates the terms for its own sale. At one point, Jasper was eyeing a valuation of close to $1 billion for FreeCharge, as it tried to raise cash for unit, a process that began in late 2015.

However, the reversal in the fortunes of Snapdeal had a drastic effect on FreeCharge, which saw the volume and value of transactions fall sharply. The company is estimated to have recorded Rs 300 crore in transaction revenue on about 12 million transactions in April.

In its heyday, the payments company had forecast 7 million daily transactions and gross merchandise transactions of Rs 20,000 crore by the end of fiscal 2017. (Source: Economic Times)

TCS may reduce employee headcount further

TCS may reduce employee headcount furtherYoung engineers hopeful of finding a job at TCS, the country’s largest employer of IT engineers, may be disappointed as it is all set to reduce its headcount without firing anyone. For the first time in several years, TCS headcount went down by 1,414 employees from the fourth quarter of last year to the first quarter of the current financial year. And this reduction in headcount may soon become a norm even as the company vows not to fire any employees. When asked whether TCS headcount may not rise again anytime soon, Chief Operating Officer NG Subramaniam said, “It is a fair point.

What we are saying is that we are going to be hiring less, and at the same time, we need to manage attrition. We have to continue to upskill our existing people, make sure our utilisation goes up." On June 30, TCS employee count stood at 385,809. At over 12 per cent attrition rate, which is lower than the average it sees, TCS lost over 46,000 employees last year. In order to increase employee count, it will, therefore, hire at least 45,000 people this year, which as per the company is not going to happen.

“Our utilisation is 81 per cent, including trainees, and 87 per cent excluding trainees. I believe it is not high enough. With our scale of close to 385,000 employees, 10 per cent is close to 40,000. I think we have a lot of room to grow and improve our utilisation. We would be okay to go up to 90-92 per cent," Subramaniam told BusinessLine in an interview.

Automation services
Add to that, the company has started using automation internally to enhance productivity, while it tries to sell more of its automation services to customers who are shying away from the traditional annuity-based IT services contracts.

The push for productivity will be higher in the current and forthcoming quarters as the company settles down with its new divisions which were created recently. “Normally, during this quarter, productivity gains of about 30-40 basis points are also there. That used to be the trend. But in this quarter, we consciously didn’t apply any productivity elements because we went through an organisational change. We put in place new teams for all the digital services. We felt that it was important to complete the transition and then make sure the team settles in before we start productivity elements etc. We believe that aspect will help us moving forward," Subramaniam said.

Consolidation exercise
All this is coupled with a massive consolidation exercise the IT major is undertaking wherein it is getting rid of smaller development centres and consolidating operations in fewer centres.

Last week, for example, TCS shut down its Lucknow development centre. The company said none of the 2,000 employees have been asked to leave and have been moved to Noida. However, employees who do not wish to change cities, might be forced to quit and the company is yet to announce a severance package for them. Similar consolidation is being seen even in Mumbai, where TCS had more than 20 locations.

Now, all these employees are being made to shift to the company's new centre in suburban Thane region.
So even while TCS continues to keep all its people unlike many of its peers who have fired thousands of their employees, the new strategy undertaken by the company will ensure that the overall headcount will gradually fall. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Apple slashes iPhone, iPad prices to pass on GST benefits to customers

Apple slashes iPhone, iPad prices to pass on GST benefits to customersApple has slashed the prices of products, including iPhone, iPad and Mac, in India from July 1, as it looks to pass on the benefits accrued from the recently rolled out GST to customers. The iPhone 7 Plus (256GB version) — the most premium device in Apple’s smartphone portfolio — will be available at Rs. 85,400. This is Rs. 6,600 cheaper than the earlier price tag of Rs. 92,000.
Similarly, iPhone SE (128GB) has been reduced by Rs. 2,200 to Rs. 35,000. The new prices listed on the company’s website is up to 7.2 per cent lower than the previous iPhone prices. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro (512GB) will see its prices coming down from over Rs. one lakh to Rs. 97,000.

Apple has declined to comment on whether the price reduction was on account of GST, which will see smartphones being taxed at 12 per cent compared to an earlier range of 8-18 per cent depending on the states. Interestingly, the government has also introduced a 10 per cent basic Customs duty on mobile phones and certain parts, to promote domestic manufacturing.

However, domestic players like Micromax and Lava are unlikely to revise their prices after GST implementation. India is an important market for Apple and this move could help the US0based firm further consolidate its position here. According to industry estimates, Apple has a 44 per cent share of the premium market ($400 and above), while rival Samsung had 41 per cent share in the January-March 2017 quarter. Other players in the category include the likes of OnePlus, LG, Sony and HTC. Apple’s revenue grew more than 20 per cent in India in the quarter ended March 2017.

Acknowledging that Apple is “underpenetrated” in India, CEO Tim Cook has said the US tech giant is strengthening its local presence in the country and is optimistic about its future given the fast-growing economy and improving 4G network infrastructure in the country. (Source:The Hindu BusinessLine)

Spirent receives Best of Interop Tokyo Awards for WLAN, Cloud and Security Testing Solutions

Spirent receives Best of Interop Tokyo Awards for WLAN, Cloud and Security Testing SolutionsThe awards recognize Spirent’s unsurpassed capabilities for innovation
Spirent Communications, an industry leader in test and measurement, today announced that the company has received multiple Best of Interop Tokyo Awards for WLAN, Cloud and Security Testing Solutions. As an industry leader in innovating tomorrow’s technologies, Spirent provides unsurpassed capabilities to meet different customers’ demands, and has continued to introduce numerous new solutions. Three of these solutions were Best of Interop finalists: Spirent TestCenter C50 with WLAN Wave2 and Ethernet/IP test solution, CloudScore solution with comprehensive cloud infrastructure benchmarking services, and CyberFlood security solution on the Spirent TestCenter C1 platform. As a result of the Best of Interop judging, Spirent has received awards for the three solutions which cover Wave 2 WLAN, Cloud, and security.

As the grand prize winner, Spirent’s WLAN Wave2 Test System was judged by a panel of leading industry analysts and experts. After rigorous review and fierce competition, the Best of Interop committee awarded the 2017 Best of Interop Grand Prize to Spirent, with the following appraisal: Spirent TestCenter C50 is a unique testing solution, including WLAN 802.11ac Wave 2 end-to-end test and 10G / 5G / 2.5G / 1G / 100M Base-T Ethernet test in one small portable chassis. Spirent TestCenter C50 is the only performance tester that supports a wide range of functions: wireless LAN 802.11ac Wave 2, automotive and Ethernet/IP. Spirent TestCenter® WLAN 802.11ac Wave 2 test module, combined with Spirent’s world first 2.5G/5G BASE-T Ethernet products, is the highest performing and the most realistic 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless local area network (WLAN) multi-client emulation testing tool available on the market today.

“In this era of rapid change, with new technologies and applications emerging every day, it is critical that Spirent maintains its pace of innovation and helps to advance tomorrow’s technologies,” said Nigel Wright, Executive VP of Global Sales for Spirent Communications. “We are proud to see several of our latest and most innovative solutions receive awards. These awards recognize Spirent’s unsurpassed capabilities to address our customers’ rapidly-evolving demands, and showcase Spirent as the trusted partner of global leaders.” (Source: Convergence Plus)

*astTECS Launches High-Performance PRI Gateway

*astTECS Launches High-Performance PRI Gateway*astTECS, a leading provider of enterprise telecom technology products and Asterisk based open source communication solution, today, announced the launch of *astPG 30 and *astPG 60 PRI Gateway. A carrier grade solution, *astTECS PRI gateway gives the freedom to connect any enterprise telephony equipment to any internet based next-generation network. The *astPG 30 includes a single T1/E1/PRI interface and supports up to 30 concurrent calls. The *astPG 60 doubles the capacity with two T1/E1/PRI interfaces and up to 60 concurrent calls.

The solution helps businesses control communication overheads and realize an early ROI. The key features of *astTECS PRI includes : Call Routing, Multiple SIP registrars, Multilevel alternative routing, Black / White list, QoS Routing, Call Manipulation, Header & Number Manipulation, Codec Translation & Transrating and Overlap / En-block conversion.

The gateway offers scalable solution for up to: 2 E1 Ports, an E-SBC feature set for VoIP-to-VoIP & ISDN-to-VoIP, high precise 5ppm clock for full fax & DECTT support and ensures full ISDN quality for voice, fax and data. The compact and feature–rich gateway is equipped with leading - edge features, like : Integrated SIP registrar & location Server, Integrated E-SBC feature set, ISDN supplementary services Conversion, Advice of Charge (AoC) generation, Full IP routing & firewall capabilities, Remote provisioning, VPN and SNMP.

“Adequate with progressive features and functionalities and a very compelling price-to-performance ratio *astTECS PRI Gateway is an ideal solution for enterprises and growing small & medium businesses, enabling steady migration to IP Telephony,” said Dr. Devasia Kurian, CEO, *astTECS.

With strong focus on customer needs, *astTECS Made-In-India products & solutions serves users across the globe and the company continues to leverage its strong capabilities in product innovation, helping enterprises and SMEs capitalize on latest in technology and adapt to customer’s communications requirements and evolving market opportunities.

*astTECS offers the most comprehensive, integrated and compelling Telecom Infrastructure Solution based on Asterisk platform that are feature rich, helps improve consistency & performance and creates a scalable, stable and resilient network that optimizes value. (Source: Convergence Plus)

Tech Mahindra bets on telecom strength to grow IoT, connected devices biz

Tech Mahindra bets on telecom strength to grow IoT, connected devices bizTech Mahindra's net profit stood at Rs 2,813 cr on revenues of Rs 29,141 cr in last financial year
Tech Mahindra, India’s fifth-largest IT services firm, looks to tap on its traditional strength in serving telecom customers to expand its business in connected networks and Internet of things. It plans to drive growth through small platforms to solve problems of clients in a targeted approach. For example, Tech Mahindra is offering software-defined network (SDN) solution with an additional layer of the internet of things (IoT) in the communication technology services business, wherein the company saw sharp fall in revenue in the fourth quarter of last fiscal. The company is planning to offer bundled packages on digital technology areas through focused teams and skills.

The company has developed “more than 30 small platforms and all of them function like individual start-ups” to improve the customer experience of its clients faster.

“We have built more than 30 platforms as one big platform will not solve all the problems. And the whole objective for is to be able to make changes faster. Our focus has been on a 360-degree approach and it is important that a culture is created, as we cannot do it in isolation. So we have created a young CEO programme who will run these small platforms as start-ups within the organisation,” said Jagdish Mitra, chief strategy officer, Tech Mahindra.

He added that the company has taken a “very significant bet” in building SDN and network function virtualisation for the communication services vertical and it would offer a combined experience to the clients consisting of styling, design, technology and operation.

“Our vision is to be amongst the top five system integrators or orchestrators in the world of IoT. We are trying to drive the whole story of the man to machine connectivity and machine to machine connectivity,” said Mitra.

The company’s fourth-quarter profits declined more than 30 per cent on the back of poor performance in communication business amidst restructuring of Lightbridge Communications Corporation (LCC), a US firm it acquired in 2015.

Tech Mahindra’s net profit stood at Rs 2,813 crore on revenues of Rs 29,141 crore in the last financial year.

Mitra believes the in long-term Tech Mahindra will drive growth through agile Devops platforms (a combination of software development and IT operations) and people will be skilled accordingly to ensure better customer experience through dedicated platforms.

The platforms within Tech Mahindra are largely segregated into two categories - horizontal and vertical platforms. “While horizontal are those can cut across multiple nonlinearities and vertical ones are industry specific and we are building them through a mix of buy and build.” The company has built something called a “Second Nest” in the Silicon Valley to partner with startups and work on customer problems. “We have created a small unit in the (Silicon) Valley that focuses on partnering with startups. We take customer problems and jointly work with the startups.” (Source: Business Standard)

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