Rev B is Immediate Future: Interview with Sandeep Yadav, Head Data and Smartphone Business, MTS India

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Despite a new company, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, operates as MTS India has a strong footprint in the mobile broadband market of India. Since Sistema entered in the country in 2008 by acquiring Shyam Telelink the company had a rough journey.

MTS India
Firstly they are using CDMA technology in a GSM-ruled market, second blow came in February 2012 when Supreme Court cancelled SSTL's licenses in 21 circles. However the company decided not to leave India and confirmed its presence in 9 circles in March 2013. We got a rare opportunity to have a talk with Mr. Sandeep Yadav, Head Data and Smartphone Business, MTS India to discuss the company’s future plans and country’s ever-changing data business scenario.

Following are the excerpts

Competition from 3G Operators as 3G tariff is falling and 3G coverage increasing
Though BSNL and Reliance slashed their 3G data tariffs, the biggies Airtel, Vodafone and Idea are yet to respond to it properly. On small screen the tariff is very competitive but on dongles MTS offers still very competitive data plans.Mr. Yadav believes in coming days all operators will go in the unified data offerings and MTS will eventually start offering unified data plans. 3G coverage is increasing, but MTS has 450+ towns under Rev A coverage and more towns will come under MTS HSD coverage in coming days. Being a 800MHz operator MTS requires one-third number of towers compared to 3G operators.

Game plan for data business: EVDO Rev B Phase II launch, EVDO Rev A expansion, HSD national roaming
MTS will continue to expand the existing Rev A (3.1Mbps) network in 9 circles and is all set to launch Rev B Phase II (9.8Mbps) network in other circles. Currently MTS has 5 cities in Rajasthan circle when Rev B is operational. Rev B launch is quite easy, it can be done by software upgrade. Rev B services will be initially launched via dongles, but certainly smartphones will be offered at proper time. Presently MTS has more than 450 towns with Rev A coverage in just 9 circles, which is highest mobile broadband coverage in the country. MTS has tied up with Tata Teleservices to offer Rev A seamless national roaming for its MBlaze & MTag customers. The deal is vice-versa, i.e. Tata Photon+ users can also take advantage of wide coverage by MTS.

Smartphone strategy to tap data market
High end smartphone ecosystem is not actually present in India, which is present in China and United Status. We are partnering up with Micromax, leading domestic handset player and the new handsets with latest Android versions will be launched in next 1-2 months. These handsets will be well-equipped and priced upto Rs 17,000. Most of these phones will have 4’’, 4.5’’ and 5’’ screens and dual SIM capabilities. One slot will be for GSM SIM and another slot will be locked to MTS RUIM. With dual SIM smartphones MTS likes to tap the country’s data market with its data centric voice enabled strategy. Apart from Micromax, MTS is also working with several OEMs to bring similar smartphones before Diwali.

Unlocked imported smartphone usage on MTS network
If you have a unlocked phone, and it works on 800MHz frequency of Reliance and Tata, surely it works with MTS. MEID registration can be possible for RUIM-less CDMA smartphones to use them on MTS network.

Reliance Jio’s upcoming 4G services
Reliance Jio will come with 4G/LTE but the ecosystem is not developed properly for mass market. The devices will be costly. MTS does not see it as an immediate competitor, as the company is offering CDMA services on 800MHz frequency which is able to offer seamless data connectivity, better consistency and low-priced entry point. (Rev B dongles are available for Rs 1499)

On upcoming 1800MHz spectrum auction
Government of India is yet to finalize the complete details, and hence MTS doesn’t want to make any comment. LTE as next jump of data revolution; The company is yet to receive 1.25 MHz of spectrum from Govt. of India, which delays the roll out of Rev B services across 9 circles. LTE trial is yet to begin, and for smooth LTE operations we need atleast 5 MHz spectrum.

Regarding Merger & Acquisition
All telecom operator is waiting with bated breath for Government’s policy of M&A. MTS is open to M&A, but right now no comments can be done.

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