Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd SSTL is the only new telecom licensee (among five that were awarded licences in January last year) that is aggressively launching services. Even then, it is a late entrant, as about seven operators are already present in most of the circles. In an interview with Hindustan Times, SSTL CEO Vsevolod Rozanov spoke on his strategy for the Indian market and the challenges his company faces.
In India, the two CDMA service providers — Tata and Reliance — are shifting away from CDMA and are expanding in GSM. What was the reason for SSTL to opt for CDMA?
CDMA is a good technology. All over the world CDMA is considered a premium service as it offers high data speed. India is a unique market where it has been positioned as a poor man’s phone. We are also trying to bring high-end phones.
The Indian telecom market is already over-crowded. What is your strategy to acquire customers in such a competitive market?
Our services are on CDMA. This is an advantage over our competitors who are mainly providing services on GSM. In CDMA quality of voice is better than that GSM. Speed of data is also higher. These are major differentiators with the existing GSM services. Our decision to introduce MTS brand in India has also helped us. MTS is an international brand and has good reputation.
The government is implementing Mobile Number Portability (MNP). Do you think this will help SSTL in acquiring customers?
I do not think MNP will help us in getting a large number of subscribers. Nowhere in the world has MNP resulted in dramatic churn. Moreover, there are few chances of a GSM subscriber shifting to CDMA as GSM phones can not be used in CDMA.
What are your network roll out plans?
We have launched services in seven circles – Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Kolkata, Bihar, and Chennai. By the end of this year, we will launch services in three more circles — Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Thus our services will be present in all the circles. By third quarter of 2010, we will launch services in all the circles.
Does it mean that your subscribers will not get calls once they leave your network coverage area
No. We have a roaming agreement with Tata Teleservices. Therefore, our subscribers can roam all over India
How many subscribers do you have?
We have 1.7 million subscribers as of now.
What are your investment plans?
We have invested $1.5 billion. Our total investment will be $ 5.5 billion in seven years.