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Batelco Funded S Tel Lauches GSM Operations; Indiatimes; Per Second Billing

pic111Decreasing ARPU and hostile market conditions are no deterrent for telecom operators in India. After Uninor rolled out services in 7 circles simultaneously, earlier this year, Batelco owned S Tel has announced the launch of its GSM services in India, starting with the Himachal Pradesh circle.  S Tel Pvt Ltd is a joint venture between Siva Group (formerly Sterling Infotech Group) and BMIC Limited, a subsidiary of Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco). The company plans to make its service available to 60 percent of the population of Himachal Pradesh by the end of the year.

Compared to many other telcos, S-Tel has a GSM license only for 6 circles: Orissa, Bihar & Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, North East and Himachal Pradesh. Not surprisingly, though, expecting number of mobile users in India to double by 2015, P. Swaminathan, Director, S Tel and President, Siva Group says that the next wave of growth lies in the six circles S Tel has licenses for.

(By Preethi) Bihar has been one of the fastest growing C-class cities for mobiles in India, so that will be S-Tel’s racehorse. J&K might prove to be a tough circle with sale of prepaid cards being halted by the government.

For GSM license in the remaining 16 circles, the company is in litigation with the Department of Telecom (DoT) and the case is being heard by the Supreme Court.

Tariff Plans: Per Second Billing, 50 Paisa

Going with the flow, S Tel has announced two billing plans: per second billing, which is something of a rage in the market with almost every telco offering this plan, and a Rs. 0.50 rate for all calls. S Tel will also also provide an additional 60 minutes of free local calls per month for a period of 3 months with any of the plans.

They’ve also launched 3 “special tariff vouchers”: Rs. 9, Rs. 149 and Rs. 1499. Users will get 60 minutes of free outgoing local calls to any network per day for a day, month and year respectively with the special tariff vouchers.

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Indiatimes Tie-Up; Special VAS Call Center

From a mobile VAS perspective, S Tel has entered into an agreement with Indiatimes to offer localized content to its consumers. Besides Astrology, Bollywood, Cricket there will be VAS based on devotion (Gita, Bible, Gurbaani etc), career & education as well as female care (beauty, cookery, fashion, etc tips).

Interestingly, for VAS services, S Tel says it will seek double consent from users and have a dedicated call centre for VAS related queries. We do wish other telcos will follow suit.

S Tel Timeline

It had been reported earlier that the JV has already invested Rs 1,253 crore and is looking to raise another Rs. 2000 crore to be used in the next  2-3 years time.

January 25 2008: S Tel gets UAS License
January 20 2009: Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco), acquires 49 percent stake 49 percent stake in  S Tel for $225 Million.
June 22 2009: C Sivasankaran of Sterling Infotech Group set to acquire 51 percent in S Tel for Rs 11.5 billion.
July 14 2009: S Tel announces that it will start roll out in the fourth quarter of the financial year 2009-10.
November 10 2009: S Tel looking at raising Rs 2000 crore which is to to be used in the next 2 -3 years.
November 23 2009: S Tel awards a five year IT outsourcing contract to Tech Mahindra. The contract includes maintenance of S Tel’s business and operational support systems.
December 17 2009: S Tel launches GSM services in India, starts operations in Himachal Pradesh.

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