UK’s New Call to buy public wi-fi provider Ozone

New Call Telecom International, a multi-platform telecoms operator based in London, has received approval from Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to acquire public wi-fi provider Ozone Networks for an undisclosed amount, according to a press release.

New Call had applied to FIPB, the nodal body monitoring foreign investment in the country, to invest in Ozone in February.

“The permissions mean that we can now concentrate on realising the potential that public Wi-Fi offers, bringing it to new cities in India, as well as rolling it out to rural communities too," said Ozone Networks founder and CEO Sanjeev Bobby Sarin.

Founded in 2008, Ozone Networks powers wi-fi in many of the largest restaurant and shop chains and the top 23 major cities. The company claims that it has deployed 2,000 public hotspots with 6,500 total access points, which includes private hotspots in educational institutions, hospitals and hotels.

Ozone Wi-Fi locations include McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, Oberoi Hotels, Barista coffee, Mumbai airport, Apollo Hospitals, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, it said in the statement.

Ozone competes with some telecom players such as Bharti Airtel, Tata Teleservices, and Idea Cellular, which have also been in the wi-fi hub business.

The company had raised a seed round of funding in 2008 from New York-based Access Industries whose portfolio includes global telecom, media and television investments, chemicals, real estate, and the commodity business.

In November 2014, Ozone also entered into a ‘Wi-Fi as a service’ strategic partnership agreement with Ericsson to provide carrier-grade Wi-Fi network across 30 cities in India.

Presently, there are about 30,000 commercial wi-fi hotspots in India – across 30 municipalities and 105 airports. By 2018, India is predicted to have about two million wi-fi hotspots, with around 400 municipalities likely to deploy wi-fi hotspots.

“Public wi-fi is an affordable way for many people in India to access the internet, who might otherwise be excluded,” said New Call Telecom CEO Nigel Eastwood.

New Call had last year acquired Nimbuzz, an instant messaging platform boasting 210 million users including many in India. Recently, it announced that it is in talks with more Indian companies to acquire businesses over the next year.

In the UK, it operates the country's fastest-growing residential broadband provider, Fuel Broadband, and a number of international calling services. Last year, it also acquired global voice wholesale and call termination company WaveCrest, which also operates voice calling apps for many major international brands.

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