Indian Telco Regulator OKs Foreign Capital

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India’s telecommunications regulator on June 30 confirmed its support for raising the ceiling on foreign ownership of direct-to-home television broadcasters and aligning the foreign-ownership rules with those in place for telecommunications carriers.

In its ruling, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said foreign ownership of up to 74 percent should be permitted for satellite-television broadcasters, up from the current limit of 49 percent. The same limit should apply to mobile-television providers, TRAI said.

The regulator said that in a digital age, former distinctions between telecommunications and broadcasting are no longer valid. To maintain platform neutrality, TRAI said, foreign-ownership limits should be the same for all carriers. TRAI said the move from analog to digital transmissions will require substantial capital investment, and that this may be more easily obtained  by relaxing foreign-ownership restrictions.

India is one of the world’s fastest-growing satellite television markets. TRAI said households subscribing to cable or satellite television grew by 10 percent, to 95 million, in the past year. Direct-to-home satellite subscriptions rose from 11.1 million in December 2008 to 21.3 million as of March, TRAI said.