A new TD-LTE service provider could be entering the Indian market before the end of the year. The US-based chip manufacturer Qualcomm – which last year won an allocation of Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum in India’s spectrum auctions – has revealed that it is in the final stages of securing a deal with a local operator.
The firm has stated its intention to pull out of India after handing network operation over to its future partner, with Qualcomm’s president of India and South Asia Kanwalinder Singh saying: : “We had earlier announced a four-step strategy for our broadband venture – to invest in spectrum, accelerate the ecosystem, to introduce one or more operators as partners and eventually exit. We are at the third step and we are in talks with operators.”
While the firm has not identified which operators it is currently in talks with, Bharti Airtel has been implicated by earlier reports. Singh did however note that: “The timing of introducing a partner is bound because we are looking at launching the networks by the end of 2011 or first half year of 2012. The new partner will make the investments for rolling out services in the circles. Once the partner operator takes control of the network we will exit.”
Under Indian regulation, direct foreign investment is limited to 74%. Qualcomm owns this percentage of the company that it founded in order to obtain the spectrum, while local partners Global Holdings and Tulip Telecom hold the remainder. Qualcomm’s stake is reportedly worth around US$1.1 billion.
The subsidiary firm secured one slot of 20MHz TD BWA spectrum in the auctions with a bid of over US$1 billion. The 2.3GHz spectrum covers four of India’s telecoms circles – Delhi, Mumbai, Kerala and Haryana – and was originally intended for WiMAX deployments, although Qualcomm will use it to deploy TD-LTE technology.
Singh confirmed that the equipment for the network was ready and that the firm was preparing to launch compatible devices as well, saying: “On the devices side we expect to go commercial with our multimode chipsets within the next couple of months and then devices will start rolling out from late 2011 or early 212. Dongles will come first.”