Another new player has announced its entry to the crowded Indian wireless sector, with STel, which is 49%-owned by Bahrain Telecommunication Company (Batelco), launching commercial GSM-based services in the Himachal Pradesh circle. According to the Business Standard, STel plans to expand its areas of operation before the end of the year, and has announced plans to launch in Bihar and Orissa within the next ten days. The cellco also holds licences to offer services in Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Assam, and it expects to introduce its services in at least three more circles before the end of the first quarter of 2010.
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Commenting on the launch, Mr P Swaminathan, director of STel, said: ‘STel is one of the first new operators to enter the market in a very timely manner due to infrastructure sharing with existing operators.’ The cellco has opted not to roll out any of its own infrastructure, and instead has inked a deal with Reliance Infratel for tower sharing, transmission for BTS sites and fibre backbone for intercity connectivity.
Meanwhile, Peter Kaliaropoulos, Batelco Group CEO, has indicated that STel may also consider taking part in the long-delayed auction process for 3G spectrum, when it does finally take place. ‘STel is also exploring its participation in the forthcoming auction for 3G mobile spectrum. Both the Siva and Batelco Groups are assisting in the process but we have yet to decide which circles we will be bidding for,’ said Mr Kaliaropoulos.