India's communications infrastructure is set for two massive tranches of investment as corporate giant Reliance Industries and media conglomerate Zee Telefilms have unveiled separate plans to build major cable networks across the country.
Zee, owned by Indian mogul Subhash Chandra, is investing about $2.5bn in building a hybrid fibre optic-coaxial cable network along with production studios and its previously announced E Cities network of multiplexes in India. The network is intended to deliver a host of broadband services including internet, voice and cable TV.
Zee, which last year bought out Star TV's 50% stake in its joint venture with the company, already owns Indian cable operator Siticable and satellite channels including Zee TV, Zee Cinema and Zee News. It has already sought permission from the Indian authorities for the right of way to build the proposed network in about 23 Indian cities. In the Indian state of Karnataka, for example, it plans to roll out 1000kms of cable in the first phase which is expected to be complete in a year's time.
Zee also reported that net profit more than trebled to $75m in the 1999-2000 financial year. The company is planning a listing on the New York stock exchange in ADR form later this year.
Meanwhile India's largest private sector corporation, Reliance Industries, says it plans to roll out an all fibre optic network to 115 Indian cities over the next two years. The group, which is currently involved in several market sectors including oil, said it will invest more than $4bn in the internet, film and TV.
Rupert Murdoch is also expected to invest in India's cable industry following his March visit to the country when he identified it as ripe for development: "It would be fair to generalise that the cable industry [in India] is chaotic and gives bad service. Now there is the opportunity to provide'.state-of-the-art broadband cable in every home that will put this country five years ahead of the US," Murdoch said.