* BNP Paribas upgraded India's Bharti Airtel Ltd to "buy" from "hold", it said in a note on Thursday.
* Bharti is well positioned to benefit from an improving outlook for the sector, including a consolidating industry, the return of pricing power, and an expected "strong" pick up in wireless data use, says BNP.
* BNP also retains its "buy" rating on Idea Cellular Ltd , calling the stock its "top pick" in the sector as the company is a "pure play" GSM mobile operator.
* However, BNP cut Reliance Communications Ltd to "reduce" from "hold" after noting shares had rallied 33.5 percent in the past three months.
* Reliance Communications would have to pay for excess spectrum while suffering from "high" debt and lagging operating performance, BNP adds.
* Bharti Airtel shares are down 0.8 percent as of 0620 GMT. Idea is up 0.1 percent, while Reliance Communications is flat.