AT&T makes another attempt to enter India

AT&T makes another attempt to enter India

Summary: AT&T's third in their two-decade long pursuit to get a piece of India's telecom market.

TOPICS: India, Mobility

For more than a decade, AT&T has been trying to enter the Indian market only to see several bumps along the road. Back in the 1990s, AT&T invested in Grasim Industries' (part of the Birla Group) Birla Communications to form Birla AT&T Communications. The dynamics of the aprtnership later changed when the Birlas & Tatas decided to join hands. AT&T then exited the Birla-Tata-AT&T joint venture in 2005. (Not long afte that, Tatas exited too to start their own service.)

After their failed marriage, rumors circulated about AT&T's investment in state-owned BSNL. That of course never happened. AT&T did however, buy stake in Tech Mahindra--an IT oursourcing company that has some telecom offerings in its portfolio. Surprsingly, AT&T sold its stake a month later.

Related: Along with consumer services like LTE, Reliance will let security agencies in the country use their infrastructure for homeland security

Hoping that third time's a charm, AT&T and Mukesh Ambani are expected to form an alliance. According to reports, AT&T will be investing in the elder Ambani's Reliance Infotel, now known as Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL). AT&T is expected to contribute close to $3.5 Billion for a 25% stake in the company. Over the next 3 years, Mukesh Ambani plans to invest close to $6 Billion to establish the service in addition to the $4 Billion so far in readying the infrastructure. RJIL will deploy around 100,000 towers each costing 100,000 INR are being made by a company that Mukesh Ambani has invested in.

RJIL is the only company to have a pan-India 4G license (BWA). And the elder Ambani plans to make leverage this against competitors. As it turns out, the government allowed BWA license owners to offer VoIP services for an additional cost of $305 Million.

Long story short:

  • Mukesh Ambani bought a company that got a pan-India BWA license
  • Mukesh Ambani invested in a telecom tower manufacturer
  • The government allowed BWA license owners to offer voice services

AT&T's timeline in India:

  • AT&T forms an alliance with Birla Group
  • TATAs, Birlas and AT&T form a joint venture
  • Tata exits, followed by AT&T's exit
  • AT&T acquires and sells stake in Tech Mahindra
  • AT&T to invest in Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio Infocomm

Topics: India, Mobility

Manan Kakkar

About Manan Kakkar

Telecommunication engineer with a keen interest in end-user technology and a News junkie, I share my thoughts while preparing for my Master's in Information Management.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • And AT&T will fail again

    Do they even vet their partners? Do they know of the Ambani's reputation for moral probity (or the absolute lack thereof?)
  • Greed!!!

    They want the gravy, meanwhile they restrict the areas in the US they serve with broadband and even charge more for extra speed. It is one thing to work for the greatest profit, it is entirely different to only serve those who provide the greatest profit. Before AT&T's monopoly was broken up they had to provide service to an entire area; that is no longer the case and it has made a mess of telecommunications outside of the urban areas. That needs to end. We need the government to determine the boundaries of the areas served and require the entire area receive the same service.