Reliance Jio Infocomm, an Indian mobile operator with hugely ambitious 4G plans, signed an agreement with Indus Towers to share tower infrastructure at “prevailing market rates”.
The deal with Indus, the largest firm of its kind worldwide with some 115,000 towers to its name, will see Jio – a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, which is controlled by Mukesh Ambani (pictured) – using all of the company’s towers across India.
“We are continuing our effort to create a new age network which will provide innovative and empowering digital solutions to every Indian through our high-speed 4G services,” said Sanjay Mashruwala, managing director at Jio. “We are building our network through a combination of infrastructure network that we are creating on our own and those that we are renting from quality partners.”
In a joint statement both companies said the agreement would avoid duplication of infrastructure and help preserve the environment.
Jio’s agreement with Indus is the latest in a series of infrastructure-sharing deals the Reliance Industries’ subsidiary has entered into as it gears up for nationwide 4G service launch next year. They include tower-sharing agreements with GTL Infra (27,800 towers, also signed this month) and Viom Networks (42,000 towers, agreed March). It also has a deal with rival operator Bharti Airtel, signed in December 2013, to share infrastructure “wherever possible” and avoid network duplication.
Arguably the most eye-catching deal was signed in June last year with Reliance Communications (RCom) – worth INR120 billion ($2.1 billion) over 15 years – which signalled the intent of Mukesh Ambani to become a major mobile player.
Under the terms of the deal, Jio leases up to 45,000 ground and rooftop towers across RCom’s nationwide network. (Anil Ambani, younger brother of Mukesh, controls RCom.) The two companies also have joint working arrangements to configure the scope of additional towers to be built at new locations. This, they say, “will ensure deep penetration and seamless delivery of next generation services”.
Mukesh Ambani said in June he would invest an enormous INR700 billion in Jio. Prior to that, Reliance Industries recently agreed to buy a majority stake in Indian content provider Network 18 Media & Investments for up to INR40 billion with a view to beefing up its 4G offering.
Jio was one of the big winners in the country’s spectrum auction this year, shelling out $1.7 billion to get hold of wireless frequencies across the country, including Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.