India’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel is reportedly in talks with state-run rival BSNL to share spectrum in four service areas, known as circles. BSNL is also discussing a potential deal with billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm which would enable it to offer 4G services, chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava has been cited saying.
India’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel (NSE:BHARTIARTL) is reportedly in talks with state-run rival BSNL to share spectrum in four service areas, known as circles.
BSNL is currently in preliminary discussions with Airtel and is open to sharing airwaves with all operators, the Press Trust of India cited BSNL chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava saying.
BSNL, which had 8.16% of India’s wireless subscribers at the end of 2015 according to regulator Trai, and Airtel, which had a 24.07% share, are looking at sharing spectrum in Rajasthan, UP (West), Bihar and Assam, the report stated.
Shrivastava noted that the company has formed a committee to consider the feasibility of spectrum sharing.
It is also discussing a potential deal with billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm which would enable his company to offer 4G services, Shrivastava was cited in local media saying.
Airtel, BSNL, and Reliance Jio – which is gearing up for its commercial launch – were not immediately available for comment.
The Indian government gave the green light to spectrum trading and sharing last year. In mid-January, RCom and Jio inked agreements to trade and share spectrum in the 800 MHz band across most of the country.
Last month, Telenor Group CEO Sigve Brekke confirmed that his company is in talks to boost its spectrum assets in India, but declined to comment further.
Meanwhile, India is gearing up for a mammoth spectrum auction this year which could raise even more than the record US$17.7bn in the 2015 tender. However, Trai’s recommended starting prices for the 700 MHz airwaves have been strongly criticised by the GSMA and operators as being too high.
Bernstein analysts said in a recent note following meetings with several Indian telcos that they expect the 700 MHz auction to fail given the high prices.
“However, the industry seems resigned that only by failing at these levels will the government be able to reset prices down,” they added.
“The good news is that the industry now has visibility of sufficient spectrum coming online to meet the next five to 10 years of forecast data demand. Most players also have ‘enough’ to wait for 700 MHz pricing to fall.”