Nokia & HCL's joint venture for mobile VAS in India

Nokia has tied up with, HCL Infosystems (HCL already distributes Nokia's mobile phones in India), this joint venture is to offer mobile value-added services like navigation, music and other entertainment to Indian consumers. Nokia may also look at other partners to offer the services to consumers.

The services are likely to be offered under the Ovi brand that Nokia uses for its online services, as told by Nokia India spokeswoman on Wednesday.

The company also has a program to offer services and content customized for rural consumers in India. The channels for the services will be different.

India added 10.81 million mobile subscribers in December, taking the total number of mobile subscribers to 347 million, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said on Wednesday. The country added 10.35 million new subscribers in November.

Telecom sustains recession times....

The economic slowdown and the resultant lay offs in sectors such as IT and automobile have not deterred people from spending on mobile phones. 

Judging by statistics produced by the Cellular Operators' Association of India, 9.75 lakh new mobile phone connections (GSM) were provided in Chennai and Tamilnadu circles in December 2008 alone. In the last three months of 2008, about 26 lakh new connections were given across the state. While about 1.15 lakh new service connections were provided in Chennai in October, the new additions fell to 56,000 in November. For the corresponding periods in the districts, the figures were 7.7 lakh and 6.5 lakh, respectively. Significantly, for every new connection in Chennai, five new ones were added elsewhere in Tamilnadu. 

Though Tamilnadu (4.29% growth in December) is only the third fastest (after Bihar that recorded 5.21% growth and Uttar Pradesh, 4.78%) growing telecom circle in India, in terms of actual numbers (two crore connections) it is the largest circle in the country, ahead of even the two largest metros, Delhi and Mumbai. Although Uttar Pradesh comes a relative close second with 1.77 crore mobile phone connections, Bihar is way behind with only 59 lakh subscribers. 

With 23.41 lakh subscribers in Chennai and 71.69 lakh in the TN circle, Aircel is the leading player in the state. The service provider holds 34 per cent of the subscriber base in Chennai and 35 per cent in the districts. In December, Aircel added 87,123 new subscribers in Chennai and 3.98 lakh in the districts. Bharti Airtel, which has the second highest subscriber base, serves 20.5 lakh people in Chennai and 56 lakh elsewhere in the state. Vodafone Essar is third, ahead of state-owned BSNL. In December, while Vodafone added 16,000 new customers in Chennai, only 5,562 plumped for BSNL. In the TN circle, Vodafone, with 1.63 lakh subscribers, had really no competition from BSNL (40,000). 

Among metros, Kolkata recorded the highest growth in terms of new subscriber base. With a 3.03% growth, it registered 70 lakh connections in December 2008, up from 68,000 the previous month. Mumbai (2.57%) recorded the second highest growth, followed by Chennai (2.21%) and Delhi (1.68%). In terms of overall numbers, Delhi led with 1.24 crore connections, followed by Mumbai with 1.12 crore.

Nokia under stress....

Nokia, the global market leader in mobile phones, yesterday posted its Q4 and FY08 earnings showing a massive 69 percent drop in Q4 profits matched mobile device volumes down to 133.1 million units, representing a 15 percent drop year on year.

The main geographic areas hit most were Middle East & Africa (-22.9 percent), Greater China (-36.1 percent), North America (-19.6 percent).

Net profit from October to December 2008 was €576 million, down from €1,835 during the same period the previous year.

“In recent weeks, the macroeconomic environment has deteriorated rapidly, with even weaker consumer confidence, unprecedented currency volatility and credit tightness continuing to impact the mobile communications industry,” said Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.

Nokia expects industry mobile device volumes in the first quarter of 2009 to decline sequentially to a greater extent. The company estimates its market share for Q4 2008 was 37 percent, compared with 40 percent Q4 2007 and 38 percent in Q3 2008. The average mobile device selling price (ASP) in Q4 2008 has declined drastically to that of Q4 2007.

Nevertheless, the company exhibits a strong confidence & that they will continue to believe that Nokia is best placed to deal with the current market conditions....

Virgin is the new benchmark: Survey

NEW DELHI: Only five telecom operators out of 11 have met the 90 percent quality of service benchmark set by the sector's watchdog, a survey released on Friday said. 

Interestingly, the country's largest private operator Airtel is among the firms that failed to meet the benchmark of 90 percent that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has set for quality of service. 

"Virgin Mobile topped user satisfaction in 2008 while players like Airtel, BPL, Idea, state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Spice fell short of the benchmark set by telecom watchdog TRAI," said the survey conducted by CyberMedia group's flagship communications industry monthly Voice&Data in association with JuxtConsult, an online research firm. 

A sample of 1,318 mobile users in India was quizzed on various factors to determine overall user satisfaction. 

State-owned operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Vodafone jostled for the second spot with scores of 91.96 percent and 91.97 percent respectively, the survey said. 

The two other players to cross the TRAI benchmark of 90 percent are Reliance Communications and Tata Indicom. 

Last year's top scorer Aircel slipped from 92.23 percent to 85.44 percent, according to the results released in Voice&Data's January issue. 

"A side-effect of the scorching pace of growth of the mobile phones in India is the rapid drop in quality of service. Five major players - Airtel, BPL, Idea, MTNL and Spice - have yet to touch their previous best score achieved in 2005. This is a cause for major concern," CyberMedia's chief editor Prasanto K. Roy said. 

The survey conducted during October-November 2008, recorded user satisfaction on five broad parameters - pre-sales and sales, network availability, value-added service (VAS), customer care, and billing. 

Expectedly, all service providers exceeded the 90 percent user satisfaction benchmark on the pre-sales and sales parameter with Virgin Mobile topping the list followed by MTNL. 

Users participating in the survey found BPL and MTNL's network performance most satisfactory with high scores of 98.2 percent and 97 percent respectively with Airtel and Idea just making the cut above the 90 percent mark. 

On the VAS parameter, BSNL topped the charts with only Idea and Aircel performing below the TRAI benchmark, the survey said. 

However, in the customer care parameter, none of the 11 players, including the topper Virgin Mobile, could muster enough support from users to get past the 90 percent benchmark. 

In terms of billing integrity, the four toppers were Virgin, Vodafone, BSNL and Reliance, the survey said. 

The average waiting time to speak to a customer care representative of Airtel and BSNL was 4.8 minutes. Idea and Spice customer have to wait an average of five minutes with a Vodafone customer having to wait for 5.2 minutes. 

However, mobile services in metro circles improved in 2008 with all the operators, except Aircel, showing higher customer satisfaction and crossing the benchmark set by TRAI, the survey said.

Batelco partners S Tel, Owns 49%

Dubai, Jan 18 (PTI) Bahrain's telecom operator Batelco has agreed to purchase a 49 per cent shareholding in S Tel Limited (S Tel), a recently established Indian mobile operation, for USD 225 million, expanding its footprint in the world's second most populous country. Batelco has partnered with Millennium Private Equity (MPE), a Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) regulated entity to form Batelco Millennium India Company (BMICL) to purchase the shares in S Tel, a company statement released here today said.

Batelco's Chairman Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa said the company will further expand its mobile operations in 2009 by investing in India. S Tel has licenses to operate in Bihar, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, North East and Assam and the finalisation of the purchase is subject to preconditions but full completion is expected by end of Q1 2009.

Batelco, the leading integrated telecommunications company in Bahrain, has operations in six markets across the Middle East. S Tel was established to gain entry into the rapidly growing mobile markets of North East and North West India, the company said adding that the population in these areas is approximately 230 million and mobile penetration rate is less than 20 per cent.

Batelco Chief Executive Peter Kaliaropoulos stated that the acquisition of the S Tel shares in partnership with MPE will provide significant growth opportunities for Batelco in the expanding Indian market, the third largest and fastest growing mobile market in the world, where mobile penetration is currently growing at 9 to 10 million subscribers a month. 

Aircel's Music Wave FM Phone

Aircel, a telecom service provider in India, launched its Music Wave FM Phone in the Rest of Tamil Nadu market (Chennai excluded) for its pre-paid subscribers, on Monday.

The phone is part of the company's effort to make mobile communication more accessible and affordable and targeted at prepaid subscribers, who were looking for affordable mobile handsets, according to Aircel South Operations Director KVP Baskar.

The phones, launched by Tamil film hero and Aircel Brand Ambassador, Surya, are available in two models--G225 and G240--are coloured mobiles with FM Radio and a long standby battery life, prices at Rs 1350 and Rs 1750 respectively.

With 15 million subscribers across India, the company has 90 per cent prepaid customers, Baskar said, adding that it has nine million subscribers in Tamil Nadu.

Stating that the phones come bundled with highly useful and low-cost voice and data services from the service provider's stable, Baskar said services include a lifetime validity, 6000 free SMS and a free talk time of 75 minutes to any mobile within Tamil Nadu, both available per month for the first 12 months.

With its service in 10 circles of the country, Aircel would start its service in the remaining 13 circles by 2010, with six to seven circles being covered during this year, Baskar said.

Vodafone pulls in with it's new tariff...

Vodafone Essar on Thursday announced its lowest entry level tariff plan for prepaid customers in the Andhra. The new recharge card of Rs.99 brings you a life time validity and a talk time of Rs.10.

Local calls to all Vodafone numbers, other mobiles and landlines are at Re.1 per minute and all the STD calls are at Rs.1.50 per minute. 

Customers can also opt for special tariff rate on STD calls by customising their tariff plans using the Vodafone bonus cards, according to a press release.