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Help Bharti,Aircel keen to buy Qualcomm Biz..!!
Oct, 2010, 03.32AM IST
Bharti, Aircel keen to buy Qualcomm biz

NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel and Aircel Cellular are interested in buying the yet-to-be-launched Indian wireless broadband business of Qualcomm, industry executives said, an indication that the scales are tilting in favour of the wireless technology being championed by the US-based cellphone chip maker.

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile phone company, is primarily interested in Qualcomm’s airwaves and permits for Delhi, complementing the 3G frequencies it won in the circle earlier this year, the executives said. Aircel, a unit of Malaysia’s Maxis Communications and the country’s seventh-biggest operator, has shown interest in the Mumbai and Kerala circles.

ET first reported on Wednesday that Qualcomm had sought a minimum of Rs 5,000 crore for its airwaves and permits in Mumbai, Delhi, Haryana and Kerala. It paid Rs 4,913 crore to win the licences in an auction in June.

“Airtel has 3G spectrum in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, UP (East) and Rajasthan. They have broadband wireless spectrum in Punjab. Haryana is the only missing link for them in North India, and if Bharti were to buy Qualcomm’s Haryana permit, it will provide them with a corridor of continuity across the entire Northern region. They have only 5 MHz of 3G spectrum in Delhi, its key circle, which is insufficient. Since LTE is a natural progression for 3G, it makes strategic sense for Bharti if they are pitching for Qualcomm’s licences in Delhi,” said BK Syngal, senior principal at Dua Consulting and former chairman of VSNL , a long-distance operator now owned by the Tata Group .

Bharti’s top two executives Akhil Gupta and Sanjay Kapoor met Paul Fiskness, Qualcomm’s senior vice-president for strategic investment and South Asia head Kanwalinder Singh to understand the terms and conditions under which the California-based chip maker wants to exit. Sandip Das, CEO of Maxis Communications, was the interlocutor on behalf of Aircel. Malaysia-based Maxis owns majority stake in Aircel.

An Airtel executive said company officials regularly meet with top Qualcomm personnel as the chip maker is a major player in the 3G and LTE space, adding that such meetings could not be considered as being related to buying the latter’s operations in India. Aircel’s chief operating officer Gurdeep Singh denied any meetings with Qualcomm. “We are yet to decide if we want to go in for WiMAX or LTE as the technology platform when we roll out broadband wireless services, which rules out any possibility of a deal or meetings with Qualcomm at this stage,” he said.

Qualcomm has told potential suitors that it is considering two options for the sale of its broadband wireless business, ET’s review of the presentations it made to them shows. The companies which own Qualcomm’s spectrum could be sold together as a single block, or be split into two blocks — one grouping Mumbai and Kerala and the other Delhi and Haryana.

TD-LTE (time division-long term evolution), the technology being backed by Qualcomm, faces competition from WiMAX, or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access. WiMAX has Intel as its main backer.

Indian telecom companies, which rely mainly on voice and text messages for the bulk of their revenues in an overcrowded and ultra-competitive market, are now working frenetically to roll out 3G services which will allow customers access to high-speed Internet services.

For wireless broadband, they have not yet indicated a clear preference for either WiMAX or LTE. But Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries , which got access to an all-India wireless broadband footprint by acquiring auction winner Infotel Broadband, has shown signs that it may favour the technology being championed by Qualcomm. While LTE is part of the popular GSM technology and has compatibility with both 2G and 3G networks, it is still an emerging technology. WiMAX, which is relatively more mature, loses some of its attractiveness because of high device costs.

Tata Communications and Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Communications , both of which lost out in the auctions earlier this year, may also be interested, especially since Qualcomm has broadband frequencies in Delhi and Mumbai. Both companies withdrew from the auctions saying the bids were in excess of what they were willing to pay.

Bharti Airtel, which won broadband frequencies in four circles — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Kolkata — has said that its experiments in these circles will enable it to prepare for an all-India footprint when broadband technologies evolve and become commercially viable. Aircel has broadband as well as 3G frequencies in eight circles and said the overlap will help it save up to 2% in both capital spending and operational expenditure.
Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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