Idea to come to Mumbai

Mumbai: After two years of being awarded the license to start wireless mobile services in India's corporate and financial hub, Mumbai, Aditya Birla Group company Idea Cellular is finally set to start its Mumbai operations.

Sources say that the Aditya Birla Group company is set to formally launch its offering in Mumbai within a few days, having spent the better part of the last two years setting up infrastructure that is now finally in place.

Reports in the media suggest that the trials of the new network are over, and the company is set to roll out its chain of 200-odd stores that will offer its services, in addition to a marketing team.

Idea Cellular is the fifth largest mobile services network in India, and has plans for a nation wide presence. Its bid to enter the highly competitive and somewhat saturated Mumbai telecommunications market saw it battle issues over spectrum allocation, which was finally allotted to the company in March 2008. That delay cost Idea its earlier launch date in the last quarter of 2007.

Idea's entry into Mumbai takes the count of telecom services providers in the city to seven, with customers over 10 million according to data of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the GSM industry body. The company is reported to have allocated a sum of Rs650 crore for its Mumbai roll out from its initial public offering (IPO) funds raised in February 2007.

Earlier this year, Idea helped promoter B K Modi exit from his investment in Spice Telecommunications (See: Idea Cellular to help Modi's exit from Spice Communications), having acquired 281 million shares in Spice for around Rs2,176 crore.

Recently, the government asked the cellular operator to surrender the licence of either Punjab or Karnataka telecom circle to enable the merger of Spice Communications with itself, for which it would get no refund. Idea was expected to surrender its own licences and retain Spice licences in both the circles as Spice has 800 MHz spectrum in these two areas which can accommodate more users. (See: DoT asks Idea to return licences in Punjab or Karnataka for Spice merger)