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News Digest: Nokia, Qeep, ZestADZ, Dialog Telekom, Loop Telecom, Sri Lanka Telecom, Orkut, Unitech Wireless, SBI, Nepal Telecom, News Corp

Nokia’s Microfinancing Options; Comes With Music

Nokia launched microfinancing options to rural handset buyers – they can pay weekly installment of Rs. 100 each over 25 weeks. The handset manufacturer tested these schemes in 2,500 villages in rural Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh where it received a total of 27,500 applications.

The company also said its new service Comes With Music, which offers handset buyers unlimited music downloads for a year on their mobiles as well as computers, will be launched soon. (ET)

Our Take – We at Medianama have been very interested in the music store by Nokia and other players such as Hungama and Saregama. But this bit about unlimited free downloads is interesting – what’s the catch? The price of the handset will definitely be bumped up but will there also be a limit? Moreover, as the Guardian blog says, how is Nokia planning to reconcile revenue sharing with artists if it donates the songs for free?

Qeep Partners with ZestADZ

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Qeep, a UK & South Africa mobile gaming and entertainment community inked ties with Mobile-Worx‘s ZestADZ for mobile advertising. It expects 40 million impressions per month to be monetized in Qeep’s key countries, primarily, South Africa.  ZestADZ is a part of mobile-worx, a leading mobile marketing company with its headquarters in Los Angeles, USA and operations in Chennai & Mumbai

Dialog Telekom Reports Loss: Higher Admin Costs, Discounts

Sri Lanka’s Dialog Telekom reported a second quarter loss of Rs. 7.67 billion ($67 million) for three months ending June 30, compared with a Rs. 335 million profit a year earlier. Revenue fell 4.3 percent to 8.8 billion rupees. Discounts offered by Dialog eroded its profitability and the “administrative costs” in the quarter jumped to Rs. 9.1 billion from Rs. 2.3 billion a year ago. Dialog started services in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and four other towns in Sri Lanka’s north on August 12, and will spend as much as $10 million to expand in regions that the government wrested control from the Tamil Tiger rebels. (Bloomberg)
News Corp restructures Asia broadcast biz; STAR India holds leading position

News Corporation announced its restructuring process where STAR India, STAR Greater China and Fox International Channels will hold leading positions in their target markets. Paul Aiello will be leaving the company by December end and STAR India will manage sales and distribution of News Corporation channels in India, a total of 19 channels in eight languages and will also manage News Corporation’s interests in seven ventures including DTH operator Tata Sky, Cable system Hathway, channel distributor STAR Den and many more.
The establishment of an office in Hong Kong was also announced which will be responsible for business development, legal, government affairs and corporate communications functions. The business will be managed by Ward Platt, President, Asia, and Zubin Gandevia, Chief Operating Officer, Asia. Platt will report to David Haslingden, Chief Executive Officer, FOX International Channels and National Geographic Channels Worldwide.

Fox International will combine Star World, Star Movies and Channel [V] International with channels under the FOX and National Geographic Channel brands to create Asia’s largest international TV channel network, operating 37 channels under 17 channel brands and reaching more than 426 million cumulative households.  (e4M)

Nepal Telecom To Upgrade To IP CDMA Network

Nepal Telecom is upgrading its CDMA network into an IP CDMA network, with an aim to improve the quality of voice and data services, and help the commence operation of 3G mobile services. The telecom operator has currently laid a voice-only network and is providing both voice and data services. NT is issuing a public tender notice next week, asking domestic and international telecom equipment suppliers to submit bid documents. Nepal Telecom has distributed more than 700,000 CDMA lines throughout the country, of which more than 500,000 have been distributed as cell phone lines and around 180,000 as fixed phone lines. (MyRepublica)

$1 Bn Loan For Unitech Wireless From SBI

New telco Unitech Wireless has secured a loan of 50 billion rupees ($1 billion) from State Bank of India to fund its mobile phone network roll out which it plans to start by the end of December quarter. Unitech Wireless is 49% owned by Norway’s Telenor. Telenor has sought government approval to increase its stake to 67.25 percent, with the balance to be held by Unitech Ltd. (Reuters)

Orkut Launches New Features

Google’s social network Orkut has enabled ‘chat’ as its new feature for the users which includes a number of other features like ‘group chat’ where one can chat with multiple users at the same time. The other feature includes ‘chat list’ which makes it easy to see who is online, whether they are logged in through orkut, gmail, iGoogle or google talk. Another feature is ‘chat pop out’ which allows the user to view individual chats in separate windows.

Sri Lanka Fibre Backbone Venture Attracts Seven Parties

Sri Lanka telecom regulator is evaluating an expression of interest from seven investors who responded to build a fibre optic backbone for Sri Lanka in partnership with state rail and power utilities. The pre-qualified bidders would get a chance to apply for national backbone telecommunications services network (NBN) license. The winner will get a 12.5 million US dollar subsidy from World Bank’s e-Sri Lanka project for the first phase of the project. Under a least cost subsidy incentive, the investor asking for the lowest subsidy will win the license. Regulator will help the NBN operator strike deals with state-run Sri Lanka Railways and Ceylon Electricity Board to help roll out the fibre backbone. (Lanka Business Online)

SLT Net Profit Drops Sharply By 57%
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The Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) Group’s net profit has fallen sharply by 57% to Rs.1.3 billion for the six months ended 30 June 2009 after financial statements showed revenue decrease in wired line, CDMA and international components. SLT’s financial statements show revenue increase by 1% for the current period to Rs.23.5 billion from Rs.23.3 billion last year. The operating costs for the Group has increased by 25% to Rs.14 billion. Wired line, CDMA and international all fell by 18%, 12% and 10% respectively for the first half of 2009 to Rs.6.4 billion, Rs.2.4 billion and Rs.4.1 billion compared to the same period in 2008. Stock brokers attributed the dip in the stock market earlier this week to the ‘poor’ results from the company. (SundayTimes)

Essar’s Loop Tele May Be Taxed For Share Transfer

The Reserve bank of India (RBI) has asked for a probe by the Department of Revenue into transfer of Loop Telecom shares between two Mauritian subsidiaries of Khaitan Group at Rs 184 crore, a price lower than the market rate of Rs 2,396 crore. Loop Telecom may have to cough up income tax for transfer of its shares from Capital Global Ltd (Mauritius) to Kaif Investment (Mauritius) in the case of Hutch-Vodafone deal. The tax department has demanded $1.7 billion from vodafone for acquiring 52% in Hutch in the erstwhile Hutch-Essar for around $11 billion in 2007.  (IE)

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