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Indian operator Reliance Communications has made a partial payment of $18.6m to Ericsson in an effort to defuse their ongoing dispute after the Swedish vendor had called for the imprisonment of its chairman Anil Ambani after the company’s failure to pay the entirety of the services charges owed.
In a statement released by RCom, it confirmed that it had deposited a payment of $18.6 with the Supreme Court registry from operational funds it had at its disposal. In addition to this, it said it was taking all required steps towards enabling a settlement.
The Indian conglomerate also stressed in the statement that it remained fully committed to making the outstanding payment to Ericsson, and said it would be able to do so with the proceeds of a spectrum asset sale to Reliance Jio.
Ericsson is owed $78.5m in unpaid service charges, but the dispute between the pair escalated when RCom failed to settle the service charge on the date it was instructed to by the Supreme Court. In response to this, Ericsson increased the pressure on the Indian firm by filing a second contempt of court case against Anil Ambani, and said he should be detained in civil prison until the outstanding amount is settled.
RCom, which has all but exited the Indian mobile market, missed the original 30 September deadline to make the payment, but was then granted a reprieve until 15 December, a deadline which it also missed.
The company argued it was unable to make the payment in time because of delays by regulator Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in approving its spectrum sale to Reliance Jio, a deal first struck in December 2017. RCom reached a deal to sell off the majority of its mobile assets to Reliance Jio after creditors, including Ericsson, took action against the company over huge debts.
As India prepares itself for the transition to 4G, Qualcomm has observed a 23% increase of revenue due to a demand surge for phones.
The American chipmaker powers more than half of all smartphones sold in India and posted sales of Rs 5,426 crore locking in a net profit of Rs 518 crore in FY18, financials sourced from research platform Tofler. The company’s growth slowed down from a year ago when it grew 39%, but has nearly doubled sales and profit over the past three years.
“There are two aspects that have stood out for India; one, this is a growing market for smartphones and two, the telecom carriers have also rapidly adopted 4G, which has transitioned this market totally from 3G to 4G and now is moving the 2G to 4G,” said Rajen Vagadia, country manager of Qualcomm India.
The telecom industry in the world’s second-most-populous nation is transiting rapidly to 4G data technology after the entry of RelianceNSE -0.39 % Jio. The Indian mobile network operator started services in September 2016, and helped spur data consumption in the country with its 4G-only network, meaning rivals Airtel and Vodafone were forced to slash its tariffs.
India mobile phone shipment crossed 300 million units for the first time ever with smartphones capturing almost 44% of the total volumes in CY 2017.
San Diego-based Qualcomm said it has evolved over the last few years supporting end-to-end product engineering, contributing to technology innovation in areas such as 4G, IoT and now 5G.
“This transition has been fuelled by solutions that Qualcomm provided, including the explosive growth of the Jio 4G feature phone at one end of the spectrum while our partners like Xiaomi have brought premium tier Snapdragon 845 at affordable prices,” Vagadia added.
Qualcomm’s Indian revenue doesn’t account sale of all its products in India however. A bulk of its transactions are with global suppliers in the US and China, which in turn market them in the country.
Shobhit Srivastava, research analyst, Mobile Devices and Ecosystems, Counterpoint Research says that most of the smartphones featuring Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset are in the mid and high tier segment, which explains the company’s billion dollar sales value in India.
”Qualcomm India can further grow its revenues given the OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) and ODMs in India start sourcing products directly with the advancing manufacturing and designing ecosystem in India,” he said in an interview to The Economic Times.
Qualcomm has helped bring features such as voice calls over a 4G LTE network and voice over Wi-Fi for consumers in India, by working closely with Indian cell carriers. The chipmaker said most companies were looking to launch major global technologies concurrently in India, making the country the first or second market for such rollouts.
Vodafone Group’s financial results for the quarter ended 31 December 2017 show a 3.6% decline year-on-year to €11.8 billion, due mostly to the removal of figures relating to its Netherlands Vodafone Ziggo joint venture from overall earnings. The company’s India unit was heavily affected by “intense price competition” and new regulation on termination fees.
Although India is excluded from Vodafone Group’s overall figures, the company’s pending merger with Indian operator Idea Cellular means it continues to provide updates for the unit. Vodafone India’s revenue in fiscal Q3 declined 26.6% year-on-year to €1.1 billion.
However, Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao said the regulatory process for the Idea Cellular merger was going well and should be complete in the first half of 2018.
On 20 March 2017, Vodafone announced an agreement to combine its subsidiary, Vodafone India (excluding its 42% stake in Indus Towers), with Idea Cellular. The combined company will be jointly controlled by Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group.
Service revenue declined 23.1% for Vodafone India as a result of intense price competition, Vodafone Group reported, which continued during Q3 as the Indian market leader increased the competitiveness of its tariffs despite price rises announced by the new entrant Reliance Jio.
This was exacerbated by a 29.2% decline in interconnection revenues following a MTR (mobile termination rates) cut on 1 October. Excluding the impact of regulation, service revenue declined by 14.2%. On a sequential basis, local currency service revenues excluding regulation declined 1.5% quarter-on-quarter.
“While the competitive and regulatory environment in India remains intense, we continue to make good progress in securing the required approvals for the merger with Idea Cellular,” said Colao, “and we have taken steps to strengthen the combined company’s financial position.”
India’s smartphone market has finally seen a change at the top, with Chinese vendor Xiaomi now leading with shipments close to 8.2 million units in Q4 2017, according to research firm Canalys. Despite annual growth of 17%, South Korea’s Samsung failed to maintain its lead, shipping just over 7.3 million smartphones to take second place.
The smartphone market in India grew by a modest 6% overall, in line with Canalys forecasts, following the seasonal dip as vendors and channel partners take stock after a busy Q3. Vivo, Oppo and Lenovo rounded out the top five, while total smartphone shipments were just shy of 30 million units.
“Xiaomi’s persistence has paid off,” said Ishan Dutt, Canalys Research Analyst. “Its results are commendable, given it entered the market just three years ago. Multiple factors have contributed to Xiaomi’s growth, but the key reason for its current success lies in the autonomy that it granted its Indian unit, letting it run the business locally. Localization in channel strategy, marketing and products has been evident in Xiaomi’s Indian operations.”
Together, the top two vendors now command more than 50% of the smartphone market in India, with market leader Xiaomi at 27% and second-place Samsung at 25%.
“Samsung’s loss comes from its inability to transform its low-cost product portfolio,” said Rushabh Doshi, Analyst. “It has been unable to win over cost-conscious consumers, losing market share in the sub-INR15,000 (US$240) segment to Xiaomi quarter after quarter.”
Despite Samsung’s ability to offer better margins and funding to the offline channel, consumer demand for its devices has been weak, Doshi adds. But it has far superior R&D, and a better hold on the supply chain due to its strong components business.
“The power struggle between Xiaomi and Samsung will continue well into 2018, as Samsung revamps its low-cost portfolio and fights to take back the aspirational status it once held in minds of Indian consumers.”
Xiaomi’s success in India will have far-reaching implications for its worldwide strategy, giving a big boost to its overseas ambitions. Considerable business in the world’s largest two smartphone markets will build confidence in its partners as well as future investors.
“But growth in 2018 will be hard to come by,” added Doshi. “As Xiaomi’s market share reaches saturation point in India, and the market continues to shrink in China, it must contend with slower growth for its smartphone business as it begins to expand in other countries.”
Nokia said will help Indian telecom provider Idea Cellular meet ever-increasing bandwidth demand by deploying Nokia's 1830 Photonic Services Switch (PSS) based Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) solution.
The optical transport network solution will be implemented across fiber-constrained geographies on the Idea network in India. Once the technology is deployed, Idea will be able to provide high-bandwidth services to its subscribers.
"With the roll-out of Idea's pan-India wireless broadband network in the last one year, we have witnessed massive data growth leading to high bandwidth demand,” said Anil Tandan, Chief Technology Officer, at Idea Cellular. “We have a long standing partnership with Nokia and we are confident that Nokia will bring the same expertise and commitment in deploying optical network as it does in Radio, Core and IP domains.”
Nokia's 1830 Photonic Services Switch allows service providers to extend reach by providing a cost-effective alternative to expensive fiber. The solution will be strategically deployed in fast-growing areas to allow Idea to offer high-bandwidth services to its subscribers without worrying about the added load on the network.
Nokia WDM helps in creating a new access layer, is easily scalable and ensures optimized power consumption and space utilization. The new transport network will also be able to support the increased demand in the future.
“Through a combination of new operator offerings, aggressive data plans and continued mass adoption of smartphones, India has witnessed unprecedented data usage growth since the beginning of 2017,” said Nitin Dahiya, Head of Customer Team - Idea, at Nokia. “We are delighted to be working with Idea to deploy an optical transport network that will help address the high-bandwidth data demands of its customers.”
India’s largest telecom services provider, Bharti Airtel, announced a strategic partnership with South Korean telecom provider SK Telecom, under which the Indian comapny will leverage SK Telekom’s expertise to build the “most advanced telecom network in India”.
“SK Telecom is delighted to announce a strategic partnership with Bharti Airtel, a global leading mobile operator,” said Park Jung-ho, the President and CEO of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will work closely with Bharti to achieve new network innovations so as to deliver a greater value to Bharti’s customers.”
The partnership will work across several areas, according to the two companies, including developing bespoke software to dramatically improve network experience, leveraging advanced digital tools including machine learning, big data, and building customized tools to improve network planning based on every customer’s device experience.
The capacity to identify, monitor and deliver improvements to the network experience on an individual device basis will be a first in India, helped by SK Telecom’s global leadership in this area.
The two companies will also collaborate on an on-going basis to evolve standards for 5G, network functions virtualization (NFV), software-defined networking (SDN) and Internet of Things (IoT), and jointly work towards building an enabling ecosystem for the introduction of these technologies in the Indian context.
“We are extremely delighted to announce this partnership with the world’s leading operator when it comes to technology understanding and expertise. This partnership will bring a dramatically improved experience to Airtel customers in India by leveraging the expertise of a company that has built one of the best mobile broadband networks in the world,” Said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel.
“Strong partnerships have been a hallmark of Airtel’s growth journey and we are proud to have always looked ahead to bring the latest technology to India,” he added. “With SK Telecom’s clear and undisputed leadership in technology, this is one partnership that will decisively change the game in India and put the country at par with the most advanced broadband nations in the world.”
Ericsson claims that Indian telecoms and media company Reliance Communications (RCom) and its subsidiaries owe it over INR11.56 billion ($180 million) and has subsequently filed a petition with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) against the company, the Swedish vendor said in a statement.
Filing the claim against RCom was a “last resort” Ericsson said, to put an end to the issue. However, RCom will reportedly challenge the action. Ericsson is seeking INR4.91 billion from RCom, and further claims that its subsidiaries Reliance Telecom and towers unit Reliance Infratel owe the company INR5.35 billion and INR1.29 billion, respectively.
“Ericsson can confirm that the company has filed an insolvency petition against Reliance Communications in the National Company Law Tribunal in India,” Ericsson said in an emailed statement. “Ericsson has done this as a last resort in order to resolve an issue regarding debt that Reliance owes to Ericsson for services provided under a contract.”
The case has been adjourned by the NCLT until September 26.
Reliance Communications is under pressure due to fierce competition in the telecom sector as a result of discount provider Reliance Jio entering the market in September 2016. RCom reported a loss of INR12.2 billion for the three months ended June 2017, according to its most recent financial results. The company is now merging with operator Aircel in a bid to cut its debt pile.
Xiaomi just launched the Mi A1 smartphone in collaboration with Alphabet’s Google, the first Xiaomi device to run on the evolved Android One program. Priced from INR 14,999 in India (US$233.90), Mi A1 combines hardware innovations, including an optical zoom dual camera setup, with Google-designed software.
The device runs on stock Android to offer a high-quality software experience designed by Google, underscoring Xiaomi’s commitment to providing more choices for users. At a launch event in New Delhi, India, it was announced that Mi A1 would be available in India and also in more than 40 markets around the world including Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, Poland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Mexico.
Android One is a low cost line of devices that run the Android operating system – a hardware and software standard created by Google for Android systems and customers in the developing world, although later on it was made available in limited form in some developed nations. Android One phones initially rolled out in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other South Asian countries in 2014.
When Google started Android One in 2014 – a signature project of Google CEO Sundar Pichai (then Google’s Android head) – the company’s early OEM partners couldn’t sell enough of the devices, thus interest waned, Bloomberg reported. Google has now teamed with Xiaomi to bring the program back to life for India, continuing a stalled effort to showcase its mobile software for users in emerging markets.
Xiaomi and Google are now together aiming at the middle market with the launch of Mi A1, which will likely see them reach fewer Indian buyers, but also avoid the intensely competitive low end market, where brand affiliation matters less and margins are thin, Bloomberg highlighted.
“Mi A1 is a strategic device in our global expansion, marking a milestone on our quest to bring innovation to everyone,” said Xiaomi Senior Vice President Wang Xiang. “From the beginning Xiaomi has been all about choice, and we are delighted to offer users a new way to experience the power of Xiaomi.”
Wang noted that this is a logical extension of Xiaomi’s long partnership with Google. “Google has been a great partner, and given our strong collaboration, we thought their idea to launch a Xiaomi smartphone on Android One would be a great opportunity to give our users a different user experience,” he said. “I’m truly excited about what this partnership will bring to our users across the world!”
What’s it got to offer? Mi A1 incorporates a dual camera configuration similar to that in Mi 6, Xiaomi’s latest flagship device, with wide angle and telephoto lenses used to incredible effect. The two lenses allow Mi A1 to calculate what is in the foreground and what is in the background, creating a depth-of-field effect that typically requires a DSLR lens to achieve, allowing the user to create photos of unparalleled clarity and color.
In addition, an improved ‘Beautify’ mode that makes selfies look more natural, now works with both the front 5MP camera as well as the 12MP dual rear camera. Mi A1 supports 2x optical zoom, which makes photos of distant subjects remain clear, while 10x digital zoom is also supported.
Mi A1 is Xiaomi’s first Android One phone, with a software experience designed by Google, offering users a simple, pure Android phone that stays fresh over time with OS upgrades. As an Android One smartphone, Mi A1 comes with the most popular Google services built-in as default, such as free unlimited high quality storage from Google Photos.
Available in Black, Gold and Rose Gold, Mi A1 has a full-metal body design that measures just 7.3mm in thickness, with discreet separation lines for a seamless look and rounded edges for great hand feel. It also comes with a rear fingerprint sensor.
Featuring a 5.5-inch 2.5D curved glass screen with Corning Gorilla Glass protection, the device also boasts a 10v power amplifier for deeper lows and higher volumes, ensuring it provides an immersive media experience. A dedicated amplifier also provides support for high-impedance headphones (up to 600 ohms).
The device is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor based on the 14nm manufacturing process, as well as a 3080mAh battery. It also features 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage.
As India seeks to become a manufacturing hub for iPhone products and components, Apple has demanded the Indian government to extend tax breaks to its suppliers. If the government were to meet the request, officials said, it would require a new policy that could apply to all device-makers in the country.
The Californian iPhone-maker has been discussing the issue with Indian officials since May 2016, when chief executive Tim Cook met with Narendra Modi and agreed to establish a production base in India that acts as a base for more than just assembling devices.
“Prerequisites” are being discussed by Apple and India that the company submitted in October last year, including duty exemption on raw materials for manufacturing components and capital equipment for 15 years for Apple to be able to manufacture iPhones from scratch in the country.
Apple plans to bring in a multitude of these ancillary units when setting up operations in India, a government official said, which will contribute to the country’s transformation into one of the world’s fastest growing smartphone markets. But the government insists that Apple’s requests will have to be part of a wider policy implementation.
Apple only has a two percent share of India’s smartphone market, and the government’s delay in answering the company’s requests could harm its penetration of the market. China was once a major growth-driver for Apple, but its revenue dropped 14 percent year-on-year in the country in the three months ended April 1.
India’s newest 4G telecommunications operator Reliance Jio has launched an investigation amidst claims that the personal data of over 100 million of its customers has been leaked on to a website. If the claims are found to be true, it would represent the largest ever data breach at an Indian telecommunications operator.