India’s mobile sector got a share-price bounce recently. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India, the country’s two biggest operators, reported encouraging top-line numbers for the quarter ended June. With voice and data revenue climbing, is it possible that the Indian mobile market – so long plagued by razor-thin margins and a volatile investment climate – has turned a corner?
The short answer is no. While increases in service revenue are welcome, helped by a growing 3G subscriber base, there are still too many market uncertainties to say with any conviction that India’s operators – many of which are carrying heavy debt – are out of the woods. (more…)
I have some sympathy for Telenor’s plight in India. After the decision of the country’s supreme court to cancel the 122 2G licences that were illegally awarded in 2008, the Norwegian telco, along with some other foreign players, has been left high and dry.
Of course, some might say it serves them right. Overlooking the obvious risks, foreign firms rushed into joint venture agreements with local companies that had acquired their 2G licences through the shady practice of first-come-first-served. Huge sums of money exchanged hands. The thinking seems to have been that, with growth prospects so high in India’s mobile market, the gamble was well worth it. (more…)