Indian telecom market more liberal than Chinese

Tuesday, 28 August 2007, 07:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: US wireless major AT&T Inc. finds the booming Indian telecom market more liberal than China, even as both the Asian economies remain very important for them to grow.

"India and China markets are very different, but both are important strategically. Whereas India has taken steps to begin liberalising its telecom market, China remains quite tightly controlled," V.S. Gopi Gopinath, vice president, AT&T Asia Pacific, told IANS in an interview.

"Nonetheless, our business grew in 2006 and we have a large number of major customers in China, so we will continue to invest and expand where we can," Gopinath said.

The Texas-based telecom firm, which had stakes in two of India's leading telecom service operators, BPL Communications Ltd. and Idea Cellular Ltd., is yet again designing to make a significant comeback.

"India is one of the fastest growing and most exciting telecom markets in the world, it is where our key multinational customers have told us they need to be," he added.

AT&T is operating its India business for over six years in partnership with VSNL and it was the first foreign telecom operator to receive new international long distance and national long distance licenses last year, when the country allowed 74 percent foreign investment in the telecom sector.

The company's business grew in India by 40 percent in 2006. It is now planning to start Internet services for its corporate clients by the end of this year and it has already announced $750 million investment in 2007 globally, a major chunk of which is slated for India.

"We got the license last October to offer fixed-line services throughout India, and we are investing heavily. We have large business customers here; hopefully, as we scale, we will see where that goes; it could go right down the market (to smaller customers). Right now, the focus is on the business side," said Gopinath, who looks after AT&T Asia-Pacific's direct sales and channel sales across 13 markets, excluding Japan.

"We already have five global network nodes in India and we will be adding second nodes in Bangalore and Mumbai this year to meet demand. India is the fastest growing and highest revenue-generating market of the 13 economies where AT&T operates in the Asia Pacific region (which excludes Japan)," Gopinath stressed.

"We look forward to introducing an even broader range of advanced networking services and solutions more rapidly, and fully integrating India into AT&T's global network that now serves 97 percent of the world's economy."

Adding that the company plans to be part of India's immense success story, Gopinath said: "We start in one place and use that to grow and expand in all segments of the market. India is a great growth story, and we want to be a part of it. Our artery is fixed-line services, we will see where it takes us."
Source: IANS
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