The US-based $120 billion revenues telecom giant, AT&T Inc., is ready to venture again in the Indian wireless space and may trigger a price war in the struggle for wireless spectrum with its monetary might — but it remains a mystery who its partner will be in the foray.
According to industry sources, the company is in negotiations with the some leading local corporate houses to venture into a pan-India wireless business. Regulatory requirements mandate a minimum 26 per cent stake for a local partner.
"We do not wish to comment on market speculation," said a person familiar with the negotiations and associated with the company.
In fact, company chairman and chief executive Randall Stephenson, who was in India in July this year on a four-day visit had said that he was open to revisiting Indian wireless market again. “India is a great growth story, and we want to be a part of it," he had said.
Because of a global restructuring, AT&T had exited from the Indian mobile market in 2005 when it was one of the equal partners in Idea Cellular in its previous avatar known as Birla-AT&T-Tata (Batata).
The current norms effectively are on a first-come, first-served basis, involving allocation of pan-India spectrum for around Rs. 1,600 crore per licencee for 2G spectrum. However, there are many applications pending before the government and AT&T may trigger a price war by offering a much higher price for the pan-India spectrum.
More players are expected to join the fray and ultimately it may led to an auctioning of spectrum.
Sources said that some of the leading global players such as Deutsche Telekom, Japan’s NTT DOCOMO and Australia’sTelstra may join the race for getting into the Indian telecom business.
In fact, market speculation is that AT&T is in the process of forming a joint-venture with Delhi-based realty firm Parsvnath Developers, which has said it is keen to bid for spectrum.
However, sources close to AT&T, denied it. "AT&T is not in discussion with Parsvnath Developers,” a source close to the company said.
Pradeep Jain, chairman and managing director of Parsvnath refused to name the joint-venture partner.
"We are in the process of putting in place the the financial details and equity structure for the joint-venture, which will be completed by October-end," he told the Hindustan Times.