RComm rolls out GSM, lines up Rs 10k crore

Written by Corporate Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: Dec 31 2008, 07:38am hrs
With competition hotting up in the mobile services space in India, Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications (RComm) on Tuesday launched the much-awaited nationwide global system for mobile communications (GSM) wireless services. RComm, the countrys second-largest mobile-phone operator, will cover 11,000 towns and 3,40,000 villages and will pump in Rs 10,000 crore for the GSM roll out. The roll-out will also include all metroes. The service is expected to cover over 1 million retailers in India. India, the worlds second-largest mobile-phone services market after China, added more than 10 million subscribers for the third straight month in November. Reliance Communications closed at Rs 228.1 on the BSE, up 7.16% or Rs 15.25.

Announcing the GSM roll out plans, Anil Ambani, chairman, RComm, said that the company could launch the services six months ahead of schedule. What has taken other companies 15 years to achieve, we have completed in less than 15 months, he said, adding that the GSM telephony will complement the group's CDMA offering to give customers a wider choice. GSM standard accounts for about 75% of Indias 336 million wireless users. The CDMA network of Reliance Comm spans more than 20,000 towns and 450,000 villages and has some 60 million subscribers across the country. Bharti Airtel has 83 million and Vodafones Indian unit has 59 million users. Customers will have a choice now. We have always said we are technology-neutral. Customers marry products and services, and not technology, Ambani said.

The company did not announce the pricing of the services yet, but said it expected good growth in the business as seven out of ten mobile customers are entering the GSM space. For RComm, all the growth has been from CDMA, but the GSM roll-out will enhance market share, Ambani said.

With the launch of its GSM service, Reliances customers will be able to use the widest range of over 250 handsets and devices compared to any other operator in India. Reliances customers can now roam on more networks globally in more than 200 countries offering the widest choice available to customers in India, a company statement said.

Stating that the company looks forward to participating in the 3G auction in 2009, Ambani said that his company may spend between Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 4,000 crore on 3G services.

Meanwhile, RComm on Monday also said that it has repurchased 250 zero coupon foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCBs) each of $1,00,000 aggregating to Rs 121.22 crore ($25 million) at a discount of 52.5% and has extinguished the same on December 29, 2008.