Bharti Airtel in talks to buy out Qualcomm's broadband wireless biz

MUMBAI: Bharti Airtel is in advanced talks with Qualcomm to buy out its broadband wireless business that would help the Indian telecom major strengthen its grip on high-end corporate clients.

Industry estimates put the acquisition price at $1.2 billion.
Airtel‘s intended proposal for the assets of the U.S. mobile phone chip-maker appears to be the most advanced, although any transaction may take at least another two to three months.

The company had earlier said it would exit its India venture after commercially rolling out the operations.

Qualcomm formed its India broadband operations after winning the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum (radio waves) in four cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala for about $1 billion in auctions last year.

Qualcomm then formed separate joint venture companies for the four circle areas, with the chip-maker retaining 74 per cent stake in each company, while India‘s Global Holding Corp. and Tulip Telecom held 13 per cent each. According to Indian law, foreign companies can hold only up to 74 per cent of local telecom joint ventures. 
On Thursday, Qualcomm said it was in "commercial" talks with Indian telecom companies that have bandwidth to offer third-generation mobile phone services.
Bharti won the broadband licenses in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kolkata and Punjab service areas, after paying approximately $740 million.

Indian mobile companies, who have seen their profitability eroding in the face of stiff competition, are now focusing more on data and enterprise services as voice calls--at less than a cent a minute--are the lowest in the world.

This shift in focus has been accentuated by the introduction of 3G services. Bharti hopes the data and enterprise services, supported by their 3G networks, would get a boost and drive in higher ARPUs (average revenue per user).

Moreover, Qualcomm assets would aid Bharti compete more effectively for high-end corporate clients. Bharti has bandwidth to offer 3G services in 13 areas across the country.

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