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Telco digest: Nokia; CAG audits; Reliance Jio; MTN; BSNL-ISRO; TRAI

Prakash Katama, Director of Nokia India’s Chennai plant has quit and the position is being taken up by V Sembian, head of product and process engineering, reports Business Standard.

Sources also told the publication that about 200 of the 700 trainees at the factory had accepted the voluntary retirement package offered by Nokia. The package to trainees includes the gross salary for three months and compensation of Rs 2 lakh. There have also been allegations these employees were forced to opt for VRS.

The plant is stuck in a legal dispute as of now in Supreme Court and at Madras High Court following its purchase by Microsoft. The company has filed a write at the Madras High Court and it said in a statement that it considers the claim to be completely without merit and counter to domestic tax laws. Supreme Court had ordered the Finnish company to give a Rs 3,500 crore guarantee and waive off some of its rights to legal defence before it transfers the factory to Microsoft.

Due to these issues there have also been rumours of Nokia leaving out the plant from Microsoft deal. This is a possibility since the company is contractually obliged to transfer all its assets to Microsoft by the end of this month. However, it doesn’t look like the company will be able to meet that deadline.

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SC okays CAG audit

The Supreme Court ruled that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was empowered to examine the accounts of private telecom companies, reports Indian Express.  The court was of the opinion that such a scrutiny was important for the government to ensure that private companies with licenses to valuable natural resources, were paying their dues.

Telcos had moved to Supreme Court after a Delhi High Court verdict that CAG had the right to audit private companies. The Supreme Court in its order said that the audit will not be a statutory audit or a special audit, but will confine to examining the statements of account a for ascertaining there was no loss to public exchequer.

The legal fight started after CAG initiated an audit following TRAI’s statement that some telecom operators were allegedly under-reporting income to avoid paying revenue share to the Government.

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Jio won’t swap spectrum

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Reliance Jio Infocomm has refused to swap 2G spectrum with Vodafone in Delhi and Idea Cellular in Kerala, saying that it is not feasible, reports Times of India. Vodafone had proposed that it could swap airwaves frequencies in 1800MHz band, with RJio in Delhi, and Idea had similar plans for Kerala. However, RJio has agreed to swap spectrum with Idea in Kolkata service area. A source told the publication that Jio refused to spectrum in Delhi and Kerala due to interference issues in that range.

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MTN not focusing on India?

South African telecom major MTN Group is not focusing on India and instead looking at Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia to drive future growth, reports The Economic Times. The company’s lack of interest could be due to lack of M&A options in the country. It is worth noting that the Indian government came out with a clear M&A guidelines only recently, and lifted all restrictions on foreign direct investment in the sector.

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BSNL wants to approach foreign players for satellite bandwidth

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Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has sought Government permission to buy satellite bandwidth directly from foreign players as it was not able to get additional capacity on transponders of its choice from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), reports The Hindu. The company told in the complaint that it had 322 MHz capacity on INSAT-3E , but ISRO has allotted only 201 MHz to it. The telco needs satellite bandwidth for links in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and other outlying areas. BSNL said that it wanted to hire capacity from MESAT or Thaicom as they were willing to negotiate at $1.15 million per transponder per annum, which was only marginally higher than what BSNL was paying earlier.

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Dates extended

TRAI has extended the date for receiving comments on a consultation paper about the pricing and allocation of microwaves in access and backbone networks to May 12, reports The Economic Times. The companies were supposed to send their comments by April 21 and counter comments by April 28.

Microwave technology is widely deployed by operators to provide point-to-point radio frequency links in mobile networks. Microwave carriers in the frequency bands of 10 GHz and beyond are called MWA carriers and below 10 GHz are called MWB carriers.

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