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Qualcomm to Pay $1B for India 4G Spectrum

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 8:18am
Maisie Ramsay

Qualcomm will pay $1.04 billion for access to India's 4G spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band after winning four key licenses in the country's BWA spectrum auction yesterday, including licenses in the densely populated markets of Dehli and Mumbai. The company also landed a 20 MHz slot in Haryana and Kerala.

"Our bidding objective was to secure an enabling role in the continued success of Indian operators with 3G and beyond, and we are extremely gratified we met that objective," said Qualcomm's India and South Asia President Kanwalinder Singh in a statement. "With its ecosystem partners, Qualcomm will now foster the deployment of LTE, so Indian consumers can enjoy the benefits of 3G now and 3G plus LTE in the future."

The San Diego-based chipmaker said it will partner with "one or more experienced 3G HSPA and/or EV-DO operator partners" to deploy a 4G network and then exit the venture as part of its compliance with India's direct foreign investment regulations.

Qualcomm believes its investment in India, the world's fastest-growing telecommunications market, will accelerate demand for its 3G/LTE multi-mode chipsets. Sales of CDMA chips and related intellectual property rights have comprised the bulk of Qualcomm's revenue.

"Along with our ecosystem partners, we are now poised to accelerate the mobile broadband revolution with 3G HSPA, EV-DO and LTE to the benefit of all Indians," said Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs in a statement. 

Qualcomm plans to deploy a TDD (time division duplex) version of LTE called TD-LTE because the India licenses cover unpaired spectrum. FDD-LTE, the version being rolled out by AT&T and Verizon, runs on paired spectrum. Clearwire's mobile WiMAX is a TDD technology.

The only company to win country-wide access to India's 4G spectrum was Infotel, which will pay $2.7 billion for 2.3 GHz spectrum licenses in all of India's 22 telecommunication circles.

In an odd twist, Reuters reported that Reliance Industries' billionaire owner Mukesh Ambani will finance the spectrum acquisition while buying out Infotel, citing an unnamed source with "direct knowledge" of the matter. The buyout would bring Infotel in competition with Reliance Communications, which is owned by Ambani's estranged brother Anil Ambani.

Reliance Communications is paying $1.85 billion for access to India's 3G spectrum but did not win any 4G licenses.

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