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Roundup: ByCell; 3G Auction; Unitech Wireless; Telcos Audit; Sistema Shyam; Dish TV

Telecom Audit

Five top private telcos in the country – Bharti AirtelReliance CommunicationsVodafone Essar,Idea Cellular and Tata Teleservices will undergo a special audit to check if revenues have been reported accurately, the government announced.

Bycell Denied Permission To Roll Out

Swiss company ByCell’s application to roll out its telecom network in India has been revoked by the government, due to security concerns. Bycell had set up a subsidiary Bycell Telecom India, in which it holds 74% stake, while Hyderabad-based Sri Jayalakhsmi Group has 26% equity. The company had received an approval from FIPB to invest Rs. 500 crores in 2006, but the licenses (for 13 circles, mostly concentrated in East India) have not been allotted by the department of telecom. (Economic Times)

Do Note: The website of the company does not proffer much background information on the promoters; it seems to have not been updated since February 2008. Jayalakshmi Group’s site is also empty. Wonder what security concerns are being referred to…

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3G Auction To Be Held Next Year

Though it set up a committee of ministers to decide the parameters of the 3G auction, the government may postpone it till after the recession. In the budget, it had estimated that the auction would bring in Rs. 35,000 crores, which it might not get in the current scenario. (Economic Times)

Our Take: This serves another purpose – it will give MTNL and BSNL more time to roll out and mainstream their 3G networks. They are the only two operators, being government-owned, to already have 3G spectrum. Both have not seen a high uptake till now and are attempting to woo users with richer content (Mobile TV). MTNL is offering a trial pack in Mumbai. At the same time, we don’t think it really matters whether the auctions happen this year or the next. All this hype around 3G is unlikely to yield much, except a market entry into India for some operators.

Related: Special Conditions Take The Magic Out Of MTNLs 3G Franchisee Tender

Unitech Wireless Recives NLD, ILD Licenses

New telco Unitech Wireless has received national and international long distance licenses for pan-India. It has already received licenses for mobile services and will roll out by the end of fiscal 10. The NLD & ILD licenses will enable it to offer STD and ISD facility to its users when it does. (Economic Times)

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MTS Takes $70 Million Loan From Bank of China

Sistema Shyam, which is present in six circles in India under the brand MTS, has taken an eight-year, $70 million load from the Bank of China to buy equipment from ZTE Corporation, a Chinese manufacturer. (Reuters)

Dish TV Increases Set Top Box Rates

Since the budget imposed 5% customs duty on import of set top boxes, DTH provider Dish TV (by Essel Group which also runs the Zee bouquet of TV channels) has decided to pass it onto the consumer, increasing prices of its set top boxes by Rs. 100. The company has said it absorbed rising costs for manufacturing them as exchange rates rose over the past year. (IndianTelevision)

Our Take: In the price-competitive arena of DTH, with Sun Direct even offering free set top boxes, this may be a wrong step to take.

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