AT&T scouts India for innovation, partners

U.S. telecoms giant shortlists Indian startups for potential partnerships to spur new innovative technologies, as it looks abroad to expand offerings to customers.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

U.S. telecommunications giant AT&T is on a global hunt for potential partners to tap new technologies outside its home market and has shortlisted four Indian startups.

In a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Wednesday, AT&T may invest up to US$1 million in some of these startups in India which were shortlisted after the U.S. company held a "speed-dating" session in April. The report said over a dozen entrepreneurs participated in the session and were typically given about 20 minutes to present their projects.

Sanjay Macwan, assistant vice president at AT&T's chief technology office, said in the report that most of the startups in India were introduced to AT&T by venture capitalists such as Sequoia Capital and Norwest Venture Partners. AT&T in India also turned to Tech Mahindra for prospects, Macwan said.

According to WSJ, AT&T will test selected new technology by launching projects with the startups. Should it prove complementary to the company's existing systems, the technology then will be added to AT&T's range of customer offerings.

Chennai-based Invention Labs, introduced to AT&T by Tech Mahindra, is one of the four shortlisted companies, according to the report, which added that AT&T had declined to identify the other startups.

AT&T's Indian program, which was launched last year, had yet to yield any results. According to Macwan, the company has had "more successes in Silicon Valley and Israel than in India", where startups in the the former two regions have offered new technologies that helped AT&T better manage data traffic and optimize bandwidth. However, he added that the quality of the startups in India was "getting closer" to AT&T's priorities.

The report noted that U.S. wireless carriers have been experiencing a crunch in radio bandwidth, while struggling to upgrade their networks to meet increasing data demand from customers using smartphones and tablet devices.

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