||A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. (November 2013)|
|Key people||Sigve Brekke (Acting CEO)|
Uninor is an Indian mobile network operator based in Gurgaon, India. The company is a joint venture between Telenor Group, a telecommunications company headquartered in Oslo, Norway, and Unitech Group, an Indian real estate company. Telenor is in operational and managerial control of the company, which has been branded Uninor in the Indian market.
Uninor offers mobile voice and data services based on the GSM technology, on 5 MHz spectrum. Uninor services are commercially available in 6 circles, covering a population footprint of 600 million people. Uninor serves more than 3 crore customers in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The mobile service provider targets youth and other communities within the Indian mass market.
The company Unitech Wireless was until 2009 a subsidiary of Unitech Group, holding a wireless services licence for all 22 Indian telecom circles since 2008. In early 2009, Unitech Group and Telenor Group agreed to enter a joint venture where Telenor would inject fresh equity investments of 61.35 billion into Unitech Wireless to take a majority stake in the company. This was operating capital invested directly in Unitech Wireless by Telenor Group. Telenor Group conducted these investments in four tranches, subsequent to approvals from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) took 67.25% ownership of Unitech Wireless. In September 2009, the company announced its brand name as Uninor.
Uninor launched in 8 circles on 3 December 2009, after completing one of the world’s largest GSM Greenfield launches which was also one of the fastest telecom roll-outs ever in India. According to Uninor, the brand was built around an ambition to serve the young, aspiring India. Six months later, 5 additional circles were launched including metropolitan areas like Mumbai and Kolkata.
Uninor has facilitated rapid scaling of the company through a lean operation model, where a large share of the network infrastructure is outsourced to business partners. Uninor’s modern equipment has enabled it to introduce targeted offerings and serve a large audience with limited spectrum. Uninor introduced dynamic pricing, a concept that gives consumers discounts that are based on current network traffic at an individual site and change with location and time. Over the summer of 2010, the company further simplified its strategy with a focus on three core areas – excellence in mass market distribution, basic services and cost efficient operations. Changes were also made to the product mix and marketing communication – making them simpler, more direct and clearly positioning Uninor as an affordable mass market service.
Uninor grew from 0 to 45.6 million customers (as of Q2 2012) within less than two years, and emerged as the most successful of the new entrants that obtained licenses in 2008. The company had more than double the subscribers of all of the other entrants combined.
On 2 February 2012, the Supreme Court of India cancelled 122 licenses of 22 mobile operators, including Uninor. The Supreme Court directed the Government of India to conduct fresh auctions for sale of the spectrum within a period of four months, asking TRAI to come up with fresh recommendations. In July 2012, awaiting fresh telecom auctions after the Supreme Court cancellation of licenses issued, Uninor decided to gradually scale down operations in 4 circles - Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa and Tamil Nadu. The objective was to strengthen the focus on the top performing circles ahead of the 2012 spectrum auction. Uninor eventually shut down services in those 4 circles. In the 2012 auction, Uninor won back licences and spectrum in 6 circles - Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West), Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra & Goa and Andhra Pradesh. Uninor was about shut down services in Mumbai, Kolkata and West Bengal circles on 18 January 2013 but the deadline was extended to 16 February 2013. The Supreme Court on 15 February 2013 ordered companies that did not win spectrum in the November 2012 auction to immediately discontinue operations.
Uninor shut down services in Kolkata, Mumbai and West Bengal after midnight on 16 February 2013. According to a Uninor spokesperson, almost all Uninor subscribers in Kolkata and West Bengal had ported out by 16 February 2013, as Uninor had informed them to do so in December 2012. The spokesperson further claimed that the "sudden apex court order did not give us [Uninor] the opportunity to inform Mumbai customers in advance". At the time of service shutting, Uninor still had 1.8 million subscribers in Mumbai.
At its peak, Uninor operated services in 13 telecom circles of India. Winning fresh licenses in its 6 most successful circles, Uninor today operates in the following telecom regions/circles:
- Current operations
- Andhra Pradesh
- Bihar & Jharkhand
- Maharashtra & Goa
- Uttar Pradesh (East)
- Uttar Pradesh (West)
- Discontinued operations
- West Bengal (shut down services after midnight on 16 February 2013)
- Karnataka (gradually scaled down from July 2012)
- Kerala (gradually scaled down from July 2012)
- Kolkata (shut down services after midnight on 16 February 2013)
- Orissa (gradually scaled down from July 2012)
- Tamil Nadu (gradually scaled down from July 2012)
- Mumbai (shut down services after midnight on 16 February 2013)
Uninor’s corporate office is located in Gurgaon, Haryana. It has 6 circle offices, one in each of the circles where its services are commercially available, as well as a number of zonal offices and technical offices.
The circles offices are in:
- Hyderabad – Andhra Pradesh circle
- Patna – Bihar & Jharkhand circle
- Lucknow – Uttar Pradesh East circle
- Noida – Uttar Pradesh West circle
- Pune – Maharashtra & Goa circle
- Ahmedabad – Gujarat circle
On 13 March 2013, Uninor announced that all its subscribers from the Maharashtra and Goa circle would be able to use their connections without any roaming charges when travelling in Mumbai, through an agreement with Tata DoCoMo.
Launching its Indian operation, Telenor announced a set of financial targets for the new venture. Uninor is targeting an 8% pan-India market share, breaking even on EBIDTA within three years of launch and obtain positive operating cash flow within five years of launch. The operational peak funding requirement is set at INR 155 billion.
Uninor’s strategy to reach its targets is based on three strategic pillars;
- servicing the basics,
- excellence in mass market distribution and
- cost efficient operations
Name and logo
The name Uninor is composed of the names of the two owners of the initial joint venture. The logotype, font and the visual expression follows that of the Telenor Group and other Telenor companies.
The tagline ‘Pay Less. Talk More.’ was introduced in 2011. Uninor also claims to be Sabse Sasta (English: "the cheapest") in its market communication.
Together with its key technology partners, Uninor has established a lean operating model. Taking the concept of outsourcing to the next level, its transformational partnership model is based on efficiency gain sharing, process focus for continuous improvement and simplification.
Uninor’s main infrastructure and operation is handled by:
- Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Nokia Siemens Networks, ZTE and Ericsson for the core and radio infrastructure
- Telcordia for the infrastructure (IN) solution
- Wipro for the company's IT services
- VIOM as the main infrastructure provider
Making distribution a key capability of the company, Uninor has a comprehensive network of distributors and retail outlets. This network is serviced by a field sales force which follows up on everything from customer queries to commissions to stocks of vouchers and SIM cards. Advanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and a handheld device enable real-time information to the sales force, increased transparency and traceability, as well as more efficient processing of requests.
Unitech Wireless was one of the would-be telecom companies that received 2G licenses in 2008. The method chosen by the authorities to allocate these licenses has later been subject to controversy as part of the 2G license allocation case. Licenses were awarded through a first come-first served process, where eight companies belonging to the Unitech Group were awarded telecom licenses.
The licenses obtained by the telecom arm of the Unitech Group were the basis for Telenor Group’s investment into the joint venture. Unitech Wireless companies were later amalgamated into one company, Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt. Ltd. The Telenor Group invested INR 61.35 billion through new shares to hold 67.25% majority stake in the company. This investment has been used as working capital for the joint venture. Telenor’s investments in Unitech Wireless have been cleared at each stage by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
Due to the controversy of the 2G license allocation case, Unitech Ltd.'s Managing Director Sanjay Chandra together with the company Unitech Wireless, have come under investigation by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). These investigations are connected to Unitech Wireless at a point when the company was fully owned by the Unitech Group. Subsequently, Unitech’s Managing Director and the erstwhile chairman of the board of Unitech Wireless, Sanjay Chandra, together with individuals from other telecom operators were taken into custody in early 2011. He was released on bail, while the case is pending in Indian courts.
In February 2012, a special court consisting of two Supreme Court justices issued a judgment in a public interest litigation (PIL) case connected to the 2008 allocation of telecom licenses. The judgment directs the Indian telecom regulator, TRAI, to recommend a process for re-allocation of the 121 licenses that were issued in 2008. The court ordered this process to be concluded within four months, i.e. by June 2012. This deadline was later extended to September 2012, then to January 2013. Uninor services and operations continues uninterrupted.
Telenor Group on 21 February 2012 announced its intention to form a new entity in India with which its Indian operations will be taken forward. This new entity will serve as the platform to approach the upcoming auctions for fresh licenses as mandated by the Supreme Court. The new entity will also seek requisite approvals from the FIPB to allow Telenor Group to take up 74% ownership.
Uninor on 1 August 2012 said it will auction all of its telecom business before it becomes non-operational on September 7, the deadline set by the apex court for winding up of operations of all the firms whose licences had been cancelled. The move has been strongly opposed by the firm's minority stakeholder Unitech and it has threatened to initiate legal action, if Uninor goes ahead with the auction. Telenor in August 2012 said it would buy out Unitech Wireless for Rs 4,190 crore, if there are no bidders for the Indian mobile phone operator's assets. A settlement between the parties was made in October 2012 with Unitech Ltd. committing to dipose of all its shares in Unitech Wireless.
Winning fresh licenses and spectrum in the 2012 telecom auction, Telenor is in the process of transferring its business to the new legal entity that will continue Uninor's network operations. Uninor services will continue uninterrupted throughout and beyond the transfer process.
- Telenor.com - Approval of Unitech Wireless’ application to increase foreign shareholding announced. October 16, 2009.
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