Reliance Industries has initiated talks to acquire India’s largest cable operator, Hathway Cable & Datacom, in a bid to speed up the commercial launch of its GigaFiber high-speed home broadband services.

Three people with direct knowledge of the talks confirmed the development to ET, while maintaining that the talks were at “an initial” stage and a deal was still at an “exploratory stage”. “It’s too early to say if the deal will go through or not, but RIL is aggressively pursuing it,” one of the people said. The valuation figure being discussed is around Rs 2,500 crore, this person said.

RIL and Hathway didn’t respond to ET’s request for comment until press time Tuesday.

Hathway is a multi-system operator, the industry term for a cable company that signs content and carriage deals with broadcasters, and offers the services to local cable operators.

This is not for the first time that RIL is eyeing acquisition in the cable TV industry.

ET reported in September last year that the company was in advanced talks with Sameer Manchanda-promoted DEN Networks for a possible acquisition. Those talks didn’t fructify and the RIL management decided to go solo on the launch of GigaFiber under its Reliance Jio Infocomm unit, one of the people said.

“At any given point of time various business plans are being discussed at Jio. Earlier, the idea was to acquire a big MSO and a few smaller ones. We have plans ready on how to use existing infrastructure of MSOs to give both video and broadband services,” the person said.

Another person said as Reliance Jio Infocomm was facing resistance from local cable operators (LCOs) in extending crucial lastmile connectivity in key markets, the GigaFiber rollout was slower than anticipated. “This has resulted in revisiting of prior plan of acquisition,” the person said. Hathway, which had a net debt of Rs 1,617 crore at the end of March, is looking to deleverage its balance sheet by Rs 500 crore in the next two years.

ET reported on July 31 that the promoters of Hathway were infusing Rs 350 crore in the business over the next 18 months in the form of equity as well as long-term unsecured loans.

Managing director Rajan Gupta had told ET in an interaction that the company got `100 crore from the promoters in July, while another tranche of `100 crore was to be received by August end. The rest of the funds, Rs 150 crore, would come by March 2020, while another Rs 150 crore would be generated from operations over the next few months, Gupta said in the interview.

Industry experts said acquisition of Hathway would give a jumpstart to Jio’s broadband plans as it would bring in more than 11 million digital cable TV subscribers and 800,000 broadband users, out of which 90% users have high-speed (over 40 mbps) plans.

Hathway’s average revenue per user for broadband business was around Rs 710 per month, in the June quarter.

“While I am not aware of the talks between RIL and Hathway, it does not surprise me either. RIL already has a MSO licence and they have fibre laid out. All they need is LCOs support to get the last mile, which is missing. Acquisition of an MSO will solve that problem,” a media analyst with a top brokerage firm said. - Gadgets Now

All India Radio has decided that the historic event will be marked by year-long celebrations beginning this week right up till Oct 1,2019.

On October 1, 1939, the All India Radio made its first broadcast for foreign listeners -- a Pashto service started by the then British rulers to counter the Nazi Germany propaganda during World War II.

The national radio broadcaster has decided that the 80th anniversary of the historic event will be marked by year-long celebrations beginning this week right up till October 1 next year. 

The external services of the All India Radio (AIR), though began with the aim of serving the propaganda of the British colonialists, have now transformed into the "voice of India" at the world stage, officials said. 

"Last year, the decision was taken that October 1 will be observed as External Broadcasting Day and Monday will be the first such occasion. All Indian missions abroad will observe the External Broadcasting Day," Amlanjyoti Mazumdar, Head External Services Division, AIR, told PTI. 

"The missions are going to circulate the material that we have sent them to sensitise the listeners in their respective countries about AIR's external services," he said. 

To mark the 80th anniversary of the AIR's first external broadcast next year, starting with tomorrow's cultural programme at Siri Fort, events have been planned all the year round, Mazumdar said. 

"We are trying to collaborate with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to organise cultural events in select countries. External broadcast will be popularised through these events," he said. 

The AIR's External Services Division broadcasts programmes that have a reach of over 150 countries through short and medium wave. 

As one of the oldest international broadcasting services that began in 1939, it offers news bulletins and other programmes in 28 languages. Fourteen out of the 28 language services are for the immediate neighbourhood. 

The foreign language services include Arabic, Baluchi, Burmese, Chinese, Dari, French, Indonesian, Persian, and Baloch, while plans are underway to start services in Japanese and Bhutanese. 

"We are also thinking in terms of expanding -- most of the international broadcasters are hiring local FM transmitters to enrich their reception in various countries. We are also thinking about hiring transmitters in select countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh which we think are important from the point of view of foreign policy," he said. 

The events in India to mark the 80th anniversary of the first external broadcast include webinars and seminars where stalwarts of international broadcast will talk about ways to strengthen the external services, Mazumdar said. 

"This is one service where we are trying to showcase the best of India. We are also trying to put India's point of view and right perspective in the face of a lot of misinformation which has been circulated by countries with which we have a worrisome relationship," the senior AIR official said. - Deccan Chronicle

Telecom minister Manoj Sinha said NDCP 2018 is transformational in the sense it lays down quantifiable objective -$100 billion investment, 50 Mbps download speeds.

The name of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India will be changed to Digital Communications Regulatory Authority of India, telecom minister Manoj Sinha said on Wednesday. “Now I should address you as Digital Communications Regulator,” Sinha told Trai Chairman R.S. Sharma from the dais at the Annual General Meeting of telecom infrastructure body TAIPA.

When asked from when the new name of Trai, Digital Communications Regulatory Authority of India, will be effective, Sinha said, “It will be done soon”. The minister earlier in the day shared change in name of Telecom Commission– apex decision-making body at the Department of Telecom, to Digital Communications Commission.

At the event Sinha said telecom infrastructure have played a vital rolein the development of telecom market in the country by “enabling rapid rollout of towers from mere 1 lakh in 2006 to 4.71 lakh currently”. He said that the new policy, National Digital Communications Policy 2018, addresses the growing need of telecom sector in the country.

Sharma said NDCP 2018 is transformational in the sense it lays down quantifiable objective -$100 billion investment, 50 Mbps download speeds.

NDCP talks about creating tower authority. The policy very clearly lays down to prepare India for digital tomorrow,” Sharma said.

He said that as a nation while we are transporting data, and 93% of it is done on wireless networks. “That is why telecom infrastructure is important. Therefore it is appropriate that we put together all our efforts, if you want to be ready for 5G, you need to put massive infrastructure,” Sharma said TAIPA Chairman Akhil Gupta said that 5G infrastructure will require hundreds and thousands of more towers. Many of them will be small cell. He requested the minister to convene a high-level conference of ministers and IT secretaries of state.

“We are still being treated as cash cows by many local authorities. If this can be changed…That would enable us smooth rollout of infrastructure,” Gupta said.

Department of Telecom Special Secretary N Sivasailam asked industry to provide GIS location of optical fibre for it to be given legal protection.

“There are no Right of Way charges what we charged is restoration charges. We take permission for 3 feet but dig 4 meters that is where the problem lies,” Sivasailam said.

He said that when states raise integrity question, the DoT becomes speechless. “States are going to gain most from RoW but once you destroy their property we don’t have any moral right,” Sivasailam said. – Live Mint