Convergence Plus
Telecom
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Ardom Telecom acquires Quanta Towergen

Ardom Telecom acquires Quanta TowergenThe Quanta Towergen acquisition is expected to provide Ardom Telecom a significant foothold into a fast-growing telecom infrastructure market. Telecom infrastructure operation and maintenance firm Ardom Telecom Pvt. Ltd on Sunday announced the acquisition of Quanta Towergen for an undisclosed amount.
Ardom, backed by L&T Infra Investment Partners, announced the “acquisition of 100% shareholding in Quanta Towergen Pvt. Ltd (QTPL), owned by Quanta Services Netherlands BV, in turn owned by Quanta Services, Inc...in an all-cash deal.”

“The acquisition is part of Ardom’s strategy to strengthen its fixed energy cost business and is expected to provide Ardom a significant foothold into a fast-growing market,” it said in a statement. “This acquisition is in line with our objective of providing sustainable and reliable clean energy to telecom sites under long-term contracts to create value in the company,” Ardom managing director and chief executive officer Ajit Shankar said. (Source:Mint)

Tower operators seek special treatment from electricity boards

Tower operators seek special treatment from electricity boards"We want all state governments to direct their electricity boards to give special treatment to telecom sector and tower operators," said Akhil Gupta, Chairman of TAIPA.
BHUBANESWAR: Terming power issues as a major challenge before them, telecomtower operators have sought special treatment from electricity supply outfits across the country to ensure efficiency in telecom sector. "We want all state governments to direct their electricity boards to give special treatment to telecom sector and tower operators," said Akhil Gupta, Chairman of Towers and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA).

Power problem happens to be a major challenge before the telecom sector in different parts, particularly eastern region, said Gupta who was here to participate in a workshop organised by the TAIPA.

Gupta, who happens to be the Vice Chairman of Bharti Group and Executive Chairman of Bharti Infratel Limited, said the tower operators are keen to create a robust telecom infrastructure in eastern region for which proper availability of power is essential.

While the power scenario in Odisha happens to be highly satisfactory, in some other states telecom tower operators are hit by non-availability of electricity or erratic supply, he said.

Another challenge before the telecom tower operators in the region has been insurgency and Maoist menace in the region, Gupta said adding that there has been considerable improvement in the situation in recent times following effective steps taken in the states.

Stating that the number of towers sites in eastern region at present stood at 77,855, he said this needs to double by April 2018 to 2 lakh tower sites.

While marching towards achieving the goal of installing the desired number of towers, the operators often face restriction on location of cell sites, high fees being levied apart from multiple levies like registration, sharing and renewal, said a senior TAIPA functionary.

Delay in getting clearances and requirement of multiple NOCs from various departments also affect the work of telecom tower operators in the region, he said.

The region also witnesses frequent fibre cuts, high incidence of taxes on cellular towers and complicated, cumbersome and time consuming procedures, said Gupta and other TAIPA officials.

Some of the common issues faced by telecom tower operators in the eastern region are restrictions of tower installation near water bodies, schools, hospitals, religious places, railways, high tension electrical lines and heritage sites, they said.

Optimistic about expanding their network, Gupta said states like Odisha have been extending necessary cooperation and assistance to the telecom tower operators in a dynamic manner. (Source: ETTelecom)

Telcos on 4G spectrum acquisition overdrive as data consumption soars

Telcos on 4G spectrum acquisition overdrive as data consumption soarsTelecom operators in India are on an overdrive to acquire additional 4G capacity spectrum to spruce up networks in terms of speed and riding video content amid the sharp upsurge in data consumption levels, analysts and industry experts said.  Bharti Airtel’s decision to buy Tikona Digital’s 4G business, they said, reaffirms the faith among the established carriers in 4G capacity spectrum to maintain high quality customer experience in the future. This comes amid expectations of price rationalisation in the next 12-18 months, now that Reliance Jio Infocomm’s free services are drawing to a close by the month-end.

“When you see a monumental jump in data consumption demand in a very short span, any Jio competitor will need to tank up on 4G capacity spectrum at the earliest to support comparable data services offerings to ring-fence the experience of upper-tier customers, especially video content,” Sanjay Kapoor, a former CEO of Bharti AirtelBSE 0.59 % told ET. 

Jio, he said, has almost “overnight triggered a near thirtyfold jump in data offered to subscribers” to 28 GB per customer per month on average from 750-900 MB per customer per month earlier, which is the principal trigger for incumbent carriers to invest in 4G capacity spectrum in the 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands. 

Incumbents, he said, will need to transform quality and capacity of their existing mobile broadband networks “to be able to seamlessly handle a manifold jump in data consumption levels in the coming quarters since there is a new normal set by Jio by way of its bundled offerings”. 

Swiss brokerage UBS said the recent pickup in M&A activity reflected in Bharti Airtel’s recent acquisitions of Tikona and Telenor’s 4G airwaves along with the Vodafone-Idea Cellular merger suggest that “industry RoIC (return on invested capital) levels are unsustainably low, and spectrum ownership and ability to spend capex will be key in surviving in a high data volume environment”. 

Earlier this month, Jio’s GB-rich ‘Prime’ offerings propelled the country’s top three mobile carriers — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea CellularBSE -0.82 % — to unleash equally aggressive counter-offers to prevent customer churn. Telcos have been bulking up on capacity spectrum, particularly airwaves in the 2300 MHz band, which emerged as the key 4G band in the October 2016 auction. 

Experts said that Jio and Airtel’s additional purchases of 2300 MHz spectrum had prompted the No. 2 carrier, Vodafone India, and the third largest operator, Idea Cellular, to target more affordable capacity airwaves in the 2500 MHz band to sustain competitive edge in their leadership markets, although commercial deployment is unlikely in this 4G band for the next 12-18 months in the absence of a suitable devices ecosystem. 

Kapoor, however, said that investments in 4G capacity spectrum alone won’t do the job, asserting that these will need to be “backed with sizeable capex/opex in electronics (base stations, routers and antennae), backhaul and customer experience to make meaningful sense of the raw material, as in capacity airwaves. 

Another senior industry executive, who did not wish to be identified, said that a telco’s data capacity and coverage will need to be “optimally synchronised with riding apps, content, services and devices to create a quality customer experience, which will then give competitive edge”. 

Brokerages UBS and JM Financial said that Bharti Airtel has sufficiently reinforced its capacity spectrum following the Tikona deal as it now has 30 MHz blocks of 4G airwaves in the 2300 MHz band in as many as 13 out of the country’s 22 telecom circles.  Brokerages UBS and JM Financial said that Bharti Airtel has sufficiently reinforced its capacity spectrum following the Tikona deal as it now has 30 MHz blocks of 4G airwaves in the 2300 MHz band in as many as 13 out of the country’s 22 telecom circles. Analysts at JM Financial said that Airtel effectively has “the highest spectrum holding in the industry with an aggregate 1505 MHz of pan-India spectrum holdings across all bands”, which is 22% more than Jio’s total airwaves bank. 

The senior executive cited earlier disagreed, though, saying, “If the future of voice is VoLTE and that of data is LTE, having a huge bank of spectrum segregated across 2G, 3G and 4G platforms won’t make sense as a telco’s competitive edge vs Jio would primarily stem from its quantum of pure 4G spectrum holdings”. (Source: Economic Times)
BSNL, MTNL merger to help both firms: BSNL CMD Anupam Shrivastava

BSNL, MTNL merger to help both firms: BSNL CMD Anupam Shrivastava Amid renewed push for BSNL-MTNL merger, BSNL CMD Anupam Shrivastava has said the combination will be "advantageous" for both the state-owned telecom firms but issues pertaining to debt and salary structure will need to be sorted out first.
A Parliamentary panel report has pointed out that the Telecom Department is planning to place the merger proposal before the Cabinet by June.

The Standing Committee on Information Technology last week had said: "On the plan for merger of BSNL and MTNLBSE 3.29 %, the same would be taken to Cabinet before June."

Earlier, a top-level meeting at the Telecom Department last month discussed the possibility of merging both the entities that are facing financial stress due to increasing competition in the sector. "There is synergy between BSNL and MTNL...there is no doubt about it, especially when we look at the enterprise and mobile business segments," Shrivastava told when asked if he favours the merger.
Per se, he said, it would be "advantageous" to the two organisations.

He also pointed to certain "impediments" that would need to be sorted out before the merger can actually take place.
These include variation in salary structure of employees of the two corporations, which Shrivastava feels will need to be discussed with unions for consensus-building, besides MTNL's debt overhang.

"MTNL has a huge debt and that debt has to be looked into ...it should not happen that after the merger, the entity becomes heavily burdened," Shrivastava said. On a positive note, a potential merger would enable the corporation to offer pan-India mobile services including in lucrative markets of Mumbai and Delhi, and infuse fresh capital to bolster the network, he said. MTNL offers mobile services in Delhi and Mumbai. BSNL, on the other hand, operates in rest of India.

"For the enterprise business too, a pan-India footprint is important. Typically, large enterprises have headquarters in Mumbai and Delhi, where we are not present. So, a complete pitch requires coordination with MTNL and vice versa," he said.

BSNL's enterprise business is growing at 35 per cent, but a potential merger and a pan-India footprint could push up growth rate to 45 per cent or thereabouts, he added. (Source: Economic Times)

5 telcos ideal for market, says telecom secretary

5 telcos ideal for market, says telecom secretaryVodafone and Idea have already said they are considering merging their businesses in India
The fresh round of consolidation unfolding in the Indian telecom market is likely to yield five major players ensuring ‘enough competition but not fragmentation of spectrum’, Telecom Secretary J S Deepak said.

His comments assume significance as India — the world’s second largest mobile services market after China — is in the midst of massive consolidation with incumbent operators joining forces to take on aggressive newcomer Reliance Jio.

The consolidation in the otherwise crowded telecom industry has been hastened by Jio’s free voice call and data plans, forcing incumbents to slash tariff at the cost of profits.

“Dropping revenue is a concern which we are also addressing... era of free service and falling revenue will change... in this backdrop, the investments in India are not only welcome but are also likely to be productive,” Deepak said.

On consolidation playing out in the telecom market, he said, “This consolidation is going to be very good for India, as we are likely to get four private and one government player...BSNL-MTNL...which is ideal.”

On being asked if the spate of buyouts would leave enough room for competition in the Indian market, Deepak said, “Ideal is five players for India, which is what is likely to happen.”

Last week, India’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel announced an acquisition of Norwegian Telenor’s India unit.

Bharti Airtel’s revenue market share will rise to 35.6 per cent, following the acquisition. Telenor India currently has 2.6 per cent share in Indian market.

Vodafone and Idea have already said they are considering merging their businesses in India, a move that would create the biggest telecom operator in the country with about $12 billion in sales. Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications has signed a pact to merge its wireless business with smaller rival Aircel.

Deepak, who was attending the Mobile World Congress (MWC), is slated to meet senior officials of leading global telecom and tech companies like Vodafone, Huawei, AT&T, Nokia, Ericsson, Intel, and Facebook over the next three days. The Department of Telecom will showcase major reforms undertaken in the Indian mobile market to the global audience.

In his presentation at the MWC, Deepak would touch upon the $10-billion foreign direct investment inflows into the telecom sector in FY17, and outline flagship programmes like Digital India, Smart Cities and Start Up India.

MARKET TRENDS

  • Last week, India’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel announced the acquisition of Telenor’s Indian unit
  • Bharti Airtel’s revenue market share will rise to 35.6 per cent after the acquisition
  • Vodafone and Idea are considering a merger of their Indian businesses, a move that would create the biggest telecom operator in the country with about $12 billion in sales
  • Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications has signed a pact to merge its wireless business with smaller rival Aircel. (Source: Business Standard)

BSNL's losses narrow to Rs 4,890 crore in April-Dec

BSNL's losses narrow to Rs 4,890 crore in April-DecThe state-run telecom company posted a 5.8 per cent increase in income from services at Rs 19,379.6 crore during the period under review.
State-owned BSNL's losses have narrowed to Rs 4,890 crore for the nine months ended December 31, 2016, from Rs 6,121 crore in the year-ago period. The state-run telecom company posted a 5.8 per cent increase in income from services at Rs 19,379.6 crore during the period under review. The figure stood at Rs 18,314.9 crore in the same period of the previous year. The telecom company expects losses to come down for the full financial year as the fourth quarter is a seasonally strong quarter.

"Our revenue from services have risen by 5.8 per cent and the total income is up 7 per cent. It is a good sign," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava told PTI. Noting that the losses are down substantially on a year-on-year basis, he said, "the overall loss for the full year is likely to be further lower, as most of the revenue comes in during the fourth quarter."

The same was the case in 2015-16, when loss for full year tapered down due to fourth quarter performance, he added. With other income coming in at 42 per cent higher, the total income was pegged at Rs 20,290.5 crore for nine months ending December 2016 against Rs 18,954.4 crore in the same period of the previous year.

The telecom PSU reported a loss of Rs 7,019 crore in 2013-14 and Rs 8,234 crore in 2014-15. Its losses have less than halved to Rs 3,880 crore in 2015-16. On the other hand, the total revenue (which includes revenue from operations and other income) rose from Rs 27,996 crore in 2013-14, to Rs 28,645 crore in 2014-15, and further to Rs 32,919 crore in 2015-16.

Communications Minister Manoj Sinha had informed Rajya Sabha in a written reply on December 9, 2016, that BSNL's losses in the April-June quarter of FY17 stood at Rs 1,721 crore while total income was at Rs 7,331 crore.

Revenue from operations stood at Rs 7,183 crore during April-June quarter of 2016-17. BSNL's revenue from operation has increased from Rs 26,153 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 27,242 crore in 2014-15, and to Rs 28,449 crore in 2015-16. (Source:ETtelecom)

Telecom firms can leverage Internet of Things to gain an edge

Telecom firms can leverage Internet of Things to gain an edgeIoT is a business opportunity for telcos, it can also help them raise their game by ensuring smooth services, such as anticipating snags in functioning of cell towers

To quickly capitalise on Internet of Things (IoT), telecom companies are going to offer IoT services. While they are going to be a net service provider, they also have an opportunity to be a net consumer of IoT.New wide area network technologies are gaining momentum. Compared to 3G/4G or Wi-Fi, these technologies have much lower power consumption but are also very slow in speed.

The speeds may seem low, but they are sufficient for IoT devices and the technologies offer battery life of several months versus days.
While these new protocols such as LoRa (low range radio) are gaining momentum, there is another school of thought that Wi-Fi is much cheaper and the unit economics are already there.

The chip industry is in a chicken-and-egg phenomenon. Unless you have the volumes, you won’t have the price advantage and unless you have the price advantage, you won’t have the pricing right (for volumes to happen). This is once again a battle of standards, and time will tell which one succeeds.

I was speaking to Rohit Nalwade, CEO of Keeptrak, a leading IoT company in India. They work with several telecom companies. He said something very important. According to him, while all telecom companies sell SIM cards, a few of them are more IoT friendly than others. For example, some telecom companies offer full-fledged APIs (application programming interfaces) to get device data. Some even offer a site where the IoT company can go, see the status of the SIMs, remotely activate and deactivate them and also integrate with their billing applications.

This, he said, is key, as IoT companies will have millions of devices in the field and having a good way to manage the SIMs would be a big advantage.
IoT is a business opportunity for telecom companies. However, there are also many opportunities for telecom companies to leverage IoT as a business advantage.
For example, telecom companies that have deployed a large number of cell towers can use IoT to monitor them remotely and also do preventive maintenance. The solutions can predict failures and they can fix them before a breakdown.

Consider the case of LimeMicro, which makes a mobile base station that is completely software-defined. Instead of all the intelligence in the hardware, they use Software Defined Radio (SDR). With SDR, migrating from 3G to 4G to 5G is just an app. Adding new protocols like LoRa or setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot are all just apps that you add to the mobile base station.

This is critical in an agile environment, where customers demand a lot of new services from their service providers and they are expected to provide the same immediately. The shorter the deployment time for service providers, the faster the investments start generating revenues.

Another area where lots of interesting companies are coming along is setting up temporary mobile base stations. These can be deployed in areas where coverage may otherwise be a challenge—large exhibition halls, for instance. These can also be deployed to test coverage in an area before investing in the capex to deploy a permanent base station.

Telecom companies can also offer cloud services for the IoT devices to connect to. Since the user is already on their network, if the device is sending the data to their own data centre, it is going to be a lot faster experience and easier for the customer as well.

The customer premises equipment (CPE) are also getting smarter. They no longer need to be a plain vanilla Wi-Fi router; they can act as local cloud storage and offer IoT gateway services as well. Data can be backed up to the local cloud storage and the equipment can back up the data to the cloud when the network is free at night.
The business of the telecom companies can be highly commoditized. If they only focus on providing connectivity, they can easily be replaced by someone who is offering the same service cheaper.

One way for them to mitigate this risk is by offering bundled services and devices. This ensures that the service provider is deeply entrenched into the customer business and displacing them becomes more difficult.

For instance, telcos are already bundling handsets and MiFi (brand name to describe a wireless router that acts as mobile Wi-Fi hotspot) and some are already going to bundle various IoT devices.

If the service provider can provide end-to-end IoT services right from telematics to home automation, their services will no longer be a commodity. This can also help them increase their average revenue per user (ARPU). (Source: The Mint)

BSNL to roll out Wi-Fi hot spots to take on competition in 4G space

BSNL to roll out Wi-Fi hot spots to take on competition in 4G spaceBharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd will invest ₹700 crore to rollout 40,000 Wi-Fi hot spots across India in the next one year. This strategy is to compete with lucrative 4G connections offered by its competitors. Speaking to media persons, Anupam Shrivastava, Chairman and Managing Director, said BSNL does not have the required spectrum to roll out 4G services. So, instead, it will use the existing LTE and optical fibre network for installing new Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. Around 4,400 hot spots have been created so far. In the next two years, the operator will create 80,000 hot spots at an investment of ₹1,400 crore.

Shrivastava said the operator is looking to partner with private operators who can utilise 2,500 MHz available with BSNL to roll out 4G schemes. The investment is part of ₹4,800 crore the telecom provider planned to invest in the country for the fiscal 2016-17. Discussions to hive off BSNL tower business is under progress. Shrivastava said the provider receives ₹300 crore from tower sharing and this is likely to increase in the coming year. Having a BSNL tower can help leverage this, he added.

With the economy moving towards cashless mode, the operator will install 1.5 lakh PoS machines in its customer service centres and franchise partners in retail outlets. A customer can avail himself of a discount of 0.75 per cent for online payment of bills and recharges using BSNL portal or MyBSNL mobile app. MobiCash, joint venture between BSNL and SBI, will be launched across India next week. It is available in four States — Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Bihar.

The operator’s new plans such as landline for ₹49 and broadband for ₹249 introduced this year saw increased takers. Shrivasatava said, “In fact, our data usage increased from 270 terabyte to 340 terabyte after the launch.” After the launch of landline plan at ₹49 in August, the operator added 1.5 lakh landlines a month across India. In Tamil Nadu circle, 56,000 lines were added since August.
BSNL has registered an operating profit of ₹3,855 crore for the fiscal ended March 2016 and is expecting to close the year with ₹4,500 crore. The operating profit was in the negative during 2013-14 at ₹691 crore as it was not able to procure materials required for expansion due to legal issues. Since 2014-15, the telecom service provider began making positive operating profit at ₹672 crore. (Source: The Hindubusinessline)

BSNL mulls monthly unlimited voice call plan for subscribers

BSNL mulls monthly unlimited voice call plan for subscribers State-owned BSNL is mulling to introduce a monthly unlimited voice call plan to any network with a bit of free data for its cell phone subscribers for Rs 149 or less from next month. "We have plans to introduce an unlimited local and national voice call plan to any network with a bit of free data for Rs 149 or less than it for our cell phone subscribers from next month," BSNL CMD Anupam Shrivastava told reporters here today. "Revival path of the BSNL has begun. Its financial condition is improving.

Now we have started earning operational profits," he said. "By 2018-19 we are hopeful of earning the net profit and thereafter our aim is to become one among the three top telecom operators of India," said Shrivastava. According to the CMD, their move to provide free roaming facility to their cell phone customers has paid off with expansion in their subscribers' base.

Shrivastava said BSNL was once number 1 but slid to 6th place. (Source: Economic Times)

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