India’s fourth largest GSM operator Idea Cellular has announced plans to invest USD298 million in network rollouts in the coming year. In addition to expanding its existing services in several regions, it plans to enter three new circles – Uttar Pradesh East, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh – before the end of 2005. At the beginning of this month domestic groups Tata and Aditya Birla agreed to buy US-based Cingular Wireless’ 32.91% stake in Idea for USD300 million. The buyout, subject to regulatory approval, will bring Tata’s holding in Idea to just under 49% and raise Birla’s to over 50%. The exit of Cingular and the transfer of ownership to Tata and Birla Group leaves the path open for Idea to launch an initial public offering (IPO) as it looks to keep pace with rivals Bharti, BSNL, Hutchison and CDMA market leader Reliance.