New Indian CDMA operator Sistema Shyam Teleservices says it will invest US$5 billion in its network over the next five years and is planning an IPO within 18 months, reports India’s Economic Times. The operator – a joint-venture between Russian group Sistema (74 percent) and India’s Shyam (26 percent) – currently serves around 40 percent of the country’s population (373 towns and cities), but plans to increase this to 51 percent (566 towns) in a year, president and CEO Vsevolod Rozanov told reporters this week. “We will cover all of India over the next year and a half as we launch operations in three new circles every quarter,” Rozanov told Dow Jones Newswires. The operator launched CDMA-based prepaid services in the unified circle of Tamil Nadu, Chennai and Pondicherry this week.

According to the Economic Times, Sistema Shyam is considering tower rental agreements with various telecom infrastructure companies in India and is open to merging with or acquiring some of the smaller ones, to support network rollout. The company has also reportedly tied up handset deals with Samsung, LG and Huawei. The operator launched its first services in September 2008 in Rajasthan and said at the time it was aiming to become a top five mobile player in India with 60 million subscribers by 2017.