NTT DoCoMo unload entire stake in Tata Teleservices, Exit India

NTT Docomo

NTT DoCoMo has decided to sell its around 26.5% stake in its joint venture with Tata Teleservices as agreed between the two partners, the Japanese company said Friday.

“Under the agreement, Docomo holds the right to require that its TTSL shares be acquired for 50% of the acquisition price, which amounts to Rs 7250 crore or a fair market price, whichever is higher,” said the statement.

“In the event that TTSL fails to achieve these performance targets by the end of the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014, DOCOMO plans to exercise the above-mentioned right in or before June 2014,” the contract between the two companies had stated.

The Japanese telco had purchased about 26.5% in Tata Teleservices in stages in 2009 and 2011 for $2.7 billion. As part of the agreement, certain performance targets were set for the Tata companyBSE -1.01 % that was on the verge of launching GSM technology services at the time.

“It is uncertain how the option will be performed, however, and DOCOMO is not able to predict how events will unfold. The effect on DOCOMO’s corporate earnings for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015 cannot be forecast at this time due to these uncertainties”, Docomo said in the statement.

The agreement between the two companies allows DoCoMo to sell the stake to Tata Sons Ltd.

Unlisted Tata Teleservices expanded into lucrative GSM-based mobile phone services after the deal with DoCoMo and amassed subscribers by offering a cheaper per-second billing plan, but it subsequently failed to build on its initial success and has lost market share in the past two years.

It currently ranks seventh in terms of subscriber numbers among the 12 firms that operate in country’s fiercely competitive telecoms market.

Analysts expect DoCoMo to report about 80 billion yen ($780 million) in related losses in the financial year ended on March 31 when it announces its earnings at 0600 GMT.

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Tata Docomo Launches Endless Music Service via Retail for its Prepay Customers


tatadocomoYesterday Tata Docomo launched a new value added service – Endless Music. This value added service will be available to all Tata Docomo prepay GSM customers through electronic voucher distribution (EVD). Endless Music service will be available for both basic and smart phone users. All that a customer has to do is to visit any Tata Docomo retail partner outlet and recharge with the select denomination.

Commenting on the launch Mr Rishi Mohan Malhotra, Head – VAS Marketing, Tata Docomo, said “We have been investing in developing alternate channels of discovery to deliver content and offerings across all available physical, virtual and digital resources. The launch of Endless Music service via EVD is in keeping with Tata Docomo’s tradition of transparent transactions and customer satisfaction which shall meet the individual needs and requirements of our consumers. Through this service which is NON auto renewable, Tata Docomo aims at changing the way music is sold & consumed thus reinventing the way our customers experience music. With the launch of this service, our customers can now access the best of the Bollywood & regional music content with thousands of songs to choose from.”

He further added,”Offering Endless Music service via the retail model is a diverse strategy to ensure better adoption and long-term service usage. Through this service, Tata Docomo is also giving its retailers an opportunity to better engage with end-consumers to further understand their needs and preferences.”

With a validity period of 30 days, customers in Andhra Pradesh will have to recharge with RC 46 followed by dialing 59090 (toll free number) to avail the benefits of listening to free 300 minutes of music. Similarly, with RC 92 and RC 131, customers can avail 600 minutes of music valid for 30 days and 1000 minutes of music valid for 60 days respectively. The subscription will expire once the minutes are consumed or the validity is over. Such a model will avoid accidental activations and charges to customers and safeguard their interests in a transparent manner. Available at affordable price points, Endless Music will also enable customers to set their favourite song and as caller tune at additional charges. This service has been launched in partnership with Hungama Mobile, which has one the largest repository of different music genres.

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IMImobile Launches DaVinci Social


imimobileYesterday IMImobile announced the launch of DaVinci Social, a universal platform that provides enterprises such as banks, retailers, utilities, brands and  broadcasters with the tools they need to listen, contextualize, respond, publish and analyse mobile and social media customer interactions.

DaVinci Social gives users a coherent, unrestricted view over the mobile and social landscape, allowing users to manage inbound and outbound content across SMS, MMS, email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube from one single dashboard. With multiple channels connected into the platform, users can build and deploy consumer engagement campaigns to grow an audience base, deliver instant customer service over mobile and social media channels, and publish or distribute user generated content to multiple outbound channels.

DaVinci Social can be utilised by multiple types of users for a number of different purposes, including enterprises such as banks, retailers, utility companies or brands and broadcasters. Brands and enterprises can provide a complete customer experience by implementing customer services over mobile and social channels, improving customer satisfaction by real time listening and management of customer comments and feedback. Broadcasters can utilise DaVinci Social to quickly filter incoming audience communications for external publishing to other audience visible channels including widgets, websites, on screen overlays, mobile sites, second screens and presenter tablets. DaVinci Social has already been used by a number of leading European and Asian broadcasters for a variety of television and radio shows, dealing with high volumes of traffic from multiple audience communication sources.

Commenting on the launch, Sudarshan Dharmapuri, Vice President of Product Management at IMImobile said,“We are excited to launch DaVinci Social during the Social Media Week in Mumbai. With consumers continuing to use a multitude of channels to communicate with brands, broadcasters and enterprises, having a tool for real time engagement is becoming key to staying relevant in today’s fast moving market. DaVinci Social provides all the tools to utilise user generated content of the most influential mobile and social channels in order to create more meaningful conversations and make smarter business decisions. The launch of DaVinci Social represents a key milestone in accelerating IMI’s growth strategy and further cementing the company’s positioning as a leading technology and solutions provider at the cusp of mobile, social and cloud technologies.”

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Bharti Airtel Partners With Google To Launch 'Free Zone'

airtelBharti Airtel has partnered with Google to launch a service ‘Free Zone’, wherein subscribers will be able to access Google services such as Gmail, Google+ and Google search on their mobile phones without any data cost.

Commenting on this partnership, the company stated,”Free Zone powered by Google, will give Airtel mobile customers access to mobile web search and feature phone friendly versions of Gmail and Google+ in India. The first page of a website linked from search results is provided at no data cost.”

When the users leave the Free Zone to navigate deeper into a website or download an attachment they are informed about the data charges and given the option to purchase an appropriate data package.

Users can have unlimited access to Gmail from their mobile browser but if they click on a link or attachment within the email they are directed to a page where they can purchase a data package. Subscribers can search Internet and access the first page of websites from the results for free. However, if they click further into a website after that, they are directed to a page where they can purchase a data package.

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IMImobile Opens US office in Atlanta with support from the Metro Atlanta Chamber

imimobileYesterday, IMImobile announced the opening of its US office in Atlanta. IMImobile are expanding into the North American telecom market with an office in Atlanta, one of the leading business centers of North America. The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC),is focused on the development of the mobility and technology sectors in Atlanta and is supporting IMImobile in making an impact on the North American market.

We are excited about the opportunities for IMImobile in the North American market,” said Thomas Boesen, Senior Vice President Business Development, IMImobile. “We have a long track record of serving more than 100 telecom operators and large corporate enterprises around the world. We see significant opportunities to utilize our deep CRM expertise in the rapidly growing US prepaid market and to provide our multi-channel mobile engagement platforms to help enterprises build profitable and sustainable customer relationships” he added.

Larry Williams, Vice President of Technology Industry Development, Metro Atlanta Chamber commented, “We are pleased to welcome IMImobile to Metro Atlanta. This dynamic company will be a great addition to the vast and rapidly growing mobility and technology community. IMImobile, as a leader of cloud-based mobile data infrastructure and mobile technology, understands big data and its critical role in engaging customers in a mobile world. We congratulate IMImobile on their decision to grow their business in Atlanta, the global hub of mobility.


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Tata DOCOMO To Offer co-branded Opera Mini Mobile Browser For Its Users In India

tataoperaTata DOCOMO has partnered with Opera Software to offer a co-branded Opera Mini mobile browser to its users in India. Tata DOCOMO customers will be able to download this co-branded version of Opera Mini on their devices from

Commenting on the partnership, Rishi Mohan Malhotra, Head VAS for Tata Teleservices Limited, says, “Tata DOCOMO has been at the forefront of providing a superior mobile internet experience to our customers. We are sure that with the experience enhancements like faster browsing and convenient discovery of content that Opera Mini provides, Tata DOCOMO subscribers can truly experience world-class mobile internet browsing like never before.”

Sunil Kamath, Vice President for South Asia, Opera Software said,”According to a recent survey among mobile web users in India, which we conducted along with On Device Research, speed and ease of use were the key drivers for selecting a mobile browser, so it isn’t surprising that Opera Mini’s easy-to-use interface and speed have made it the most popular browser in India. Partnering with Tata DOCOMO will help us extend Opera Mini’s reach to more users, whether they use basic phones or smartphones.”

Opera Mini is designed to work on all kinds of phones. Tata DOCOMO customers can visit to download the co-branded version of Opera Mini. This page automatically detects the operating system and model number of a user’s mobile device and then offers the most suitable version of Opera Mini for download.

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IMImobile and Content Connect Africa sign pan-African strategic content partnership agreement

imimobileToday IMImobile announced a strategic partnership with Content Connect Africa (CCA) to provide premium local independent music and video content across Africa.

CCA has a substantial catalogue of African music content in Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Ivory Coast and Kenya. It also holds the rights to exclusive video content featuring a host of popular African artists, including DJ Cleo and Will of Steel (South Africa), Flavour (Nigeria) and Cabo Snoop (Angola)

The partnership with CCA will allow IMImobile to offer a wide selection of exclusive content such as full tracks, ringback tones, real tones, animation, images and videos to its mobile operator clients. The content will be integrated into IMImobile’s award-winning DaVinci Evolved Service Platform (ESP) to guarantee multi-channel delivery and superior customer experience across Africa.

“Africa is now the second fastest growing mobile phone market in the world and with it we see a growing demand for music services. We recognise the importance of local independent music and video content, and are delighted to have signed the strategic partnership agreement with CCA,” said Jay Patel, CEO of IMImobile.

“Our track record in delivering and managing large scale content storefront solutions to Mobile Group Operators combined with relevant and engaging music content creates a unique proposition to help mobile operators stimulate revenue growth through music content services,” he added.

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Vodafone India Partners With Aepona For API Monetization And Partner Management System

vodafone-aeponaVodafone India has partnered with Aepona for the launch of a new platform that will serve as a central access point for Vodafone’s business partners such as independent software vendors, application developers, web-based service providers and enterprises. The solution, based on Aepona’s award-winning API Monetization Platform (AMP), will provide these partners with access to Vodafone’s nationwide telecom and IT capabilities via APIs, enabling the external partner ecosystem to deliver smarter and more contextually relevant services to Vodafone’s subscribers.

The new platform will allow Vodafone India to develop and implement new business models by exposing its core network, informational and billing assets as web-based APIs, allowing partners to create and enrich a wide variety of business solutions, consumer applications and content-based services. In addition to exposing and monetizing API services, the Aepona platform will also be used as a centralized settlement system for existing subscription-based Value-Added Services.

This central platform will connect to Vodafone’s network services across all 23 Circles in India, allowing partners to reach and bill all of Vodafone’s 147 million-plus mobile subscribers.

“This is a major contract win for Aepona,” said Ingolf Ruh, Senior Vice President, EMEA & APAC, Aepona. “Vodafone has a very aggressive plan to launch new API services and connect with a large number of partners, and we are very excited to be working closely with them in the execution of this plan.”

“With this new platform, Vodafone is pioneering the rollout of Network as a Service and API Monetization, a turning point for the Mobile Industry in India,” said Jonathan Wood, Vice President for Market Development, Aepona.

Jonathan Bill, Head – Business Development and Innovation, Vodafone India, commented: “Vodafone and innovation are closely interlinked. This new platform will enable us to use our assets to create an ecosystem that will help us provide a diverse dynamic portfolio of data services to our customer base. We are pleased to partner with Aepona that has world’s most advanced software platform for API monetization and partner management and are confident that they will be able to implement such a large-scale system, spanning 23 networks and 147 million subscribers.”

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USSD :The Interactive Messaging Platform Is Untapped in India and Emerging Markets

Not many mobile users  today are aware of the powerful Mobile USSD platform, which can actually be the solution to so many real life problems across various sectors.

USSD known as Unstructured Supplementary Services Data (USSD) is a GSM service which is a real-time and session oriented platform for Mobile transactions (Pull and Push based). Unlike SMS, USSD is a real time session oriented service. USSD gateway enables telecom operators to introduce messaging services and allows up-to 182 characters on a network between mobile stations and applications. USSD gateway uses the same application programming interface that the Short Message Service (SMS) centre does.

It works on mobiles without downloading any application software. It is initiated by dialing *xxxx# short code or dialling a 10 digit code. It has better adoption rate due to non dependency on applications.

Some of the salient features of USSD

  • USSD works on all GSM handsets
  • Displays application like interactive menu
  • No application installation required
  • More secure than SMS
  • GPRS/3G is not required as it works on voice channel
  • Real time session oriented platform
  • Average duration per transaction is 2 seconds in comparison to 7 seconds in conventional SMS banking
  • Incoming messages are of flash type and do not get stored on the handset

Telecom operators are currently using USSD to solve their customer problems by providing various services like account balance check, activations etc.

ussd menuRecently government of India has started an initiative to launch mobile banking on USSD across India. The new initiative is focussed on making mobile banking more universal. Currently, a smart phone is needed to download mobile banking applications, which an average mobile user does not have. So, the USSD application will work even on a simple handset to reach out to a larger section of the society. With this checking your bank balances or placing a request for a cheque book or funds transfer  has been made as simple and hassle-free on your mobile

A whole of lot of verticals can be integrated and enabled on USSD, which will solve major accessibility problems as USSD is more universal. Leading global Mobile technology organizations like mobiShastra have been already providing cutting edge USSD services to Enterprise customers and Telcos in India and around the globe. They are doing a fantastic job in delivering innovative USSD solution to Telcos and Enterprises. Some of the applications which an enterprise can look at enabling on USSD are:

  • Survey
  • Contests & Quizzes, Voting
  • eCommerce, Deals , Coupons, Mobile/DTH Recharge/Loyalty
  • Results (Election/School etc)
  • Sales & Sales Force Tracking
  • Utility services
  • Customer Service/ Technical support
  • Information, Infotainment, TV/Radio Channels
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Financial Information & Tracking (Banking, Insurance, Mutual Funds, Logistics, Courier companies)
  • ERP systems
  • Travel Ticketing (Airlines/Railways/Bus etc)
  • eChoupal (Agriculture based ), Rural apps

There are a whole lot of possibilities for enterprises to exploit the USSD technology platform.

An insurance app on USSD


Y2Cf a startup digital media company has launched an innovative product called Hoppr, a mobile device-agnostic location based service on USSD. This engages the users by providing various location specific deals . Users could check in to various locations using the USSD service and earn deals and discounts.

Another Singapore based startup in India U2opia has also launched 2 of the world’s most popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter on USSD. Major telecom operators have launched infotainment, utility & mdeals and coupons services on USSD in India.

After spending close to 13 years in the Mobile industry in India and emerging markets , I see a  lot of opportunities for tapping the USSD market in India and around the globe as it is a mobile device-agnostic solution. USSD is surely an untapped technology platform for sure.


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Green energy efficient power solutions needed to reach the Next Billion mobile phone users – will ‘save the planet’ as well

greentelecomTelecom and tech companies could, and will, make billions by serving the ‘Next Billion’ customers in the developing world. However, new strategies are needed to reach this attractive market in an economically viable way. To begin with, mobile operators must adopt green cost-saving power solutions for their networks. All indications show that they are in fact doing this right now, with major implications for the industry and the environment.

The adoption of green power solutions as the strategy of choice for mobile operators going forward would prevent many million tons of CO2 emissions – enough to actually make a difference. Operators could save up to 20 percent of their total cost mass, freeing up capital to expand their footprint and make the necessary investments to serve the Next Billion customers, most of whom are living off grid or in bad grid locations – exactly where these green power solutions are needed most. And with these customers typically of the low ARPU type, using cost effective green power solutions to serve them would also help make them profitable for the operator.

No other practice in the mobile telecom industry is more environmentally harmful than powering several hundred thousand of off-grid base stations by burning diesel fuel. One single diesel powered base station can consume around 20,000 litres of diesel per year, and spew 50 tonnes of carbon emission into the atmosphere.

And no other practice is more financially onerous for mobile operators. Operating a single diesel powered base station can cost US$40,000 per year. For many operators in developing markets energy is the single largest cost item, often representing as much as 40-50 percent of total operating costs, and the energy cost item is high due to the use of fossil fuel to power base stations.

The good news is that there are alternatives to powering base stations with diesel, particularly those located in sunny and/or windy locations. There are several companies offering power management solutions based on renewable energy sources, with control systems and battery banks for energy capture and storage. And even without renewable energy sources, simply using energy efficient power systems based on intelligent controllers and batteries, power for base stations can become “green” using a fraction of the diesel currently used today.

Short payback time makes investment decision a no-brainer

These alternatives exist today, and are proven to deliver savings in fuel-related operating expenses by 20, 30, 50 and in some cases (the eSite) 90 percent, when the system is highly energy efficient and uses a sophisticated controller. Converted into hard cash, this equates to annual savings of more than US$30,000 per base station per year, making the investment decision a virtual ‘no-brainer’ with payback times of less than two years (on equipment that can last for ten years or more).

There are several hundred thousands off-grid and bad grid sites in the developing world, mainly in Asia and Africa – which are also the biggest and fastest growing mobile markets in the world. The overwhelming majority of them are powered by diesel or inefficient battery-hybrid solutions. Still, only around 3 percent of the base stations in developing markets use green energy.

So why aren’t there more green base stations out there powered by energy efficient power solutions and renewable energy? And why do network operators continue to spend so much money on base station diesel fuel when lower cost and more sustainable alternatives have existed for some time? These aren’t easy questions to answer, but I believe that there are a number of contributing reasons:

  • Operators are more focused on expanding their services than on reducing OPEX. There has been a clear push to roll out services to as many potential customers as possible, as quickly as possible. The operators have always made good money, so why worry about costs now?
  • Most organisations are slow to see opportunities to save. This is particularly true for larger organisations and mobile operators are typically huge companies.
  • Power management is not a core competence for most operators. As such, it’s not getting the attention it needs and possibly not at a high enough management level, where the impact of the potential savings on operating expenses and bottom line would be most keenly felt.
  • The business case proposition has, until now, not been compelling enough to get the attention of senior management. Renewable energy solutions are relatively new technologically and payback times have not been short enough. Also, some operators have had bad experiences with early equipment that have impacted the decisions to go ahead with the much more advanced green power solutions available today.
  • Evaluating solutions will take time when several suppliers, and local options, are considered and results are evaluated over seasonal changes.
  • Power related equipment is part of the passive infrastructure which, in many organisations, is purchased only on price and not performance. Focus has therefore been on keeping CAPEX budgets low rather than reducing OPEX costs in the long run.
  • The diesel distribution chain is strongly entrenched in many countries, making it difficult to introduce new technologies that reduce the dependence on diesel.

On reflection, at least half of the reasons above are just poor business sense – decisions that are simply ill informed and un-thought through, such as buying inferior equipment just because it is cheaper to purchase even if it is more expensive to operate. You can also call them inexplicable – no reasonable CEO should invest in something that is so much more expensive in the long run.

So what could and should be done to change this clearly sub-optimal way of powering base stations in off-grid and bad grid locations around the world?

Luckily, no major intervention is needed as the situation is about to change by itself. Market forces are now putting increasing pressure on mobile operators to reduce their operating costs, driven by the data boom that is putting a strain on the infrastructure, and the competition which is squeezing call rates.

On top of this, the cost of diesel cannot be expected to decrease in the long run – rather the opposite. And green power management solutions are now seen as tested and efficient enough to not be regarded as a risky choice.

There are many factors that suggest that we are on the threshold of a major shift to adopt green power for base stations. One example on the ground is Airtel’s current program to roll out hundreds of brand new state-of-the-art green power solutions all across Africa. It is a clear mind shift and also takes into account the positive effects to the brand by migrating from dirty base stations to green base stations. Mobile operators do not want to be seen as environmental ‘bad guys’.

As I see it, green power management solutions are essential to reach the Next Billion customers. They are essential to the operators’ bottom lines, and their long term financial health. And they are essential for the health of our planet. Implement them and everybody wins.

This is a guest post by David King, CEO, Flexenclosure. He is a specialist developer of intelligent power management systems and pre-fabricated data centres for the telecom industry.

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