Tata Teleservices to invest Rs.6,000 Crore in GSM

Tata Teleservices has said it will invest Rs 8,000 crore over the next 24 months to expand its telecom networks.Of this, about Rs 6,000 crore would go in building a pan-India GSM network, while the remaining Rs 2,000 crore would be used to strengthen its existing CDMA networks. Tata Teleservices managing director Anil Sardana said that the company would launch GSM services across India by March ’09.Tata Teleservices will also launch BlackBerry handsets for its customers by September. “The platforms are ready and the soft launch has already taken place. We are sorting out some minor issues in logistics before we launch it finally,” Mr Sardana said. The development assumes importance as the company’s plans to launch BlackBerry services have been held up since last year. The department of telecom has not cleared the proposal citing security fears. But the Tatas are launching Blackberry services as all major operators, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular, are already offering it.Tata Teleservices has a subscriber base of 27 million on the CDMA platform and the company is betting big on bagging a significant chunk of the new additions over the next four years. “We are targeting a customer base of 35 million plus by March ’09 and 100 million by 2011. By then, we expect to have 55 million new users on our upcoming GSM platform,” Mr Sardana said. He did not rule out the possibility of taking the acquisition route to meet the 100-million target. On the CDMA platform, the company offers services in 19 of India’s 22 telecom circles.It will launch CDMA-based mobile services in the remaining three circles — Assam, North East and Jammu & Kashmir — within the next couple of months. Tatas’ GSM foray may, however, be delayed as the DoT is likely to take time to provide the company with radio frequencies. Focus on Indian mkt “We are concerned about the delay as this will impact our rollout plans. We have paid for the GSM frequencies but the allocation has not happened yet,” he added. The Tatas also plan to leverage their ‘superior network quality’ and customer services in a bid to get customers from other operators when number portability kicks off in India. On the company’s plans to offload 49% stake in the hived off passive infrastructure and tower arm, Mr Sardana said the process was on. “We are looking at different business models and are yet to finalise a partner who will get a 49% stake in the company,” he added. Asked if Tata Teleservices planned to bid or acquire mobile licenses abroad, he said the company would continue to focus on the Indian market. “Expansion in the global markets will be through Tata Communications (VSNL). They already have mobile operations in Nepal, Sri Lanka and South Africa and will continue to evaluate other options,” he said.

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