To Sell or Not To Sell 3G Spectrum

Mike brings to attention that India is grappling with a unique set of problems when it comes to their 3G direction – whether to give away new licenses for free to existing license owners or charge carriers for it. This has everyone in an uproar. Indian regulator, TRAI thinks India should give it away. But then these are the same geniuses who went with the 256 kbps definition of broadband, so you can’t really take them too seriously.
The wireless operators in India already have cash flowing into their coffers, and can afford to pay for the spectrum. Given that spectrum is nation’s public property, giving it away for free should not even be considered. I think it is clear to me – they should charge more like a leasing fee for it. The spectrum compromise, should be that the money should pay for helping armed forces move to a new frequency and perhaps create a rural telephony fund. Still, I see an impasse over 3G emerging in India, which could stall India’s fast growing telephony markets.
As an aside, one of the big stories in India that is not being covered in the west is the ongoing split between the Ambani family – the owners of Reliance Infocomm. Reliance is going to go to Anil Ambani, one of the brothers who also happens to be a member of the upper house in the Indian parliament. There are rumors that Reliance Infocomm is not all that as it is made out to be. A 3G license for free could come in quite handy, don’t you think? Or perhaps it is me who sees shapes in shadows.

The New Road to Riches, Redux

Following up on my last October’s cover story, The New Road to Riches, many more people are coming around and embracing the build-it-flip-it model. Good to know that Jeff is on board. He writes, “What is interesting is that Topix is the yet another Internet startup to develop a meaningful presence without any VC financing, and end up being taken out – at least partially. These exits would not make sense for ‘traditional’ VCs that need to deploy at least $5 to $10M per deals, and need to generate at a bare minimum 3X to 5X on that capital. But it makes sense for angels and founders – and people helping them develop the shop like yours truly, who have to accept to live for some time on ‘Macaroni and Cheese’. Alternate model ? ” New Road to Riches/Business 2.0.

India: The Next Telecom Boom Market

With all the buzz around China and Korea, many tend to overlook that India is turning into one of the hottest telecom markets on the planet. While visiting India I saw many US venture capitalists were out pitching their companies to Indian telecom giants, recognizing that growth is in Asia, and not in the US.

Last week, Susan Kalla told me she was headed to Bombay and then to Delhi for a quick visit. To me she is always a leading indicator of the next big telecom trend. While visiting India in April 2004, I met with several telecom executives who indicated that Indian telecom companies could spend nearly $10 billion a year for next several years as the country tries to build out is basic wireline, wireless and eventually broadband infrastructure. Actually I was wrong. The Indian market for equipment and services is expected to jump to $24.3 billion by 2006, up from $13.7 billion in 2001, according to telecom research firm Frost & Sullivan. The mobile infrastructure market in India hit $1.17 billion last year, Gartner said, and is forecast to grow to $1.885 billion by 2008.

I stumbled across this article on InternetNews.com which outlines the recent developments in the Indian market, and provides a good overview, on where that market is headed. In short, the article I wanted to do. In recent days, Nortel and Nokia announced deals with Indian operators worth nearly $862 million. Last week I reported exclusively that Motorola was being the “outsourcer” for Tata Telecom. While wireless gets most attention in India, I find that wireline and broadband categories get overlooked. Cisco and Alcatel, along with chinese powerhouses UT Starcom, and ZTE Corp, have done well in india. In Cisco’s most recent conference call, CEO John Chambers called India “a great success story.” “We put a lot of investments over the last several years, and it’s growing approximately 100 percent year-over-year,” he said.

Lest you think that only large mega billion dollars corporations can succeed in India, smart start-ups are finding success in India. One such company is Atrica of San Jose, California. The company makes optical and networking equipment that can be used to stream voice, video and data services over Ethernet. Almost two years ago, the company got a call from Reliance – they needed moderately priced gear for their Ethernet-based network that would eventually service over 10 million commercial buildings across India.

Nan Chan, Atrica’s vice president of marketing says, “Indians are tough negotiators who know how to watch for their own interests. A lot of people underestimate their ability and the total market opportunity.” He didn’t. Atrica worked on developing a special product portfolio for India which met the needs of Reliance, was inexpensive and still kept the company in black. It took a year, but it worked. Sales from India could be over $25 million in next couple of years.

Anyway given all the hoopla around the market, and given my contacts, I am adding a new category to keep you abreast of what’s happening in india and will keep you posted of major developments.