Spice to invest up to $300 mln in telecom operations

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New Delhi, May 23 (UNI) Spice Group today said it will invest up to 300 million dollars in its telecom operations in Punjab and Karnataka this year and is in discussion with firms to rent network infrastructure.

''In the two circles, we will invest 200-300 million dollars.

As we get more visibility on spectrum, we will invest more,'' Group President (Global Operations) Dilip Modi told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here.

The Spice group, which owns Spice Communications, is also confident of getting spectrum in Andhra Pradesh ''soon'', added Mr Modi.

Spice has licences to operate in six of India's 23 telecom circles but a constraint of spectrum means it cannot immediately start services in all of them.

The group, which had 4.2 million subscribers in March, is 39.2 per cent owned by Malaysia's state-controlled Telekom Malaysia.

Spice aims at doubling its subscriber base to at least eight million this year, he said, adding that the firm's expansion would be through sharing network infrastructure with other firms.

Referring to the initial spectrum that a telecom firm gets to start services, he said, ''With spectrum at 4.4 MHz level, it is not viable to roll out on your own,'' he said.

Additional spectrum is granted on achieving set subscriber targets.

Asked whether the firm was looking to sell a stake to foreign firms, Mr Modi said, ''There are no specific discussions.'' FDI investment up to 74 per cent in the telecom sector is allowed by the government. Foreign firms are eyeing stakes in Indian telecom operators, with the rapidly expanding market and low teledensity holding out attractions for them.

UAE's Emirates Telecommunications Corporation, Qatar Telecommunications and Bahrain Telecommunications said they were readying their war-chests to buy into the lucrative Indian market.

UNI SR/PDT SG KP1803

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