India’s MTNL has become the latest state-owned operator in the country to hint that it is looking to partner with a major international mobile firm to help with its 3G network rollout, reports Times of India. “MTNL is taking a path-breaking step which will reap rich dividends by way of customer acquisition and meaningful content in the 3G space,” RSP Sinha, MTNL’s chairman and managing director told the newspaper. According to sources at MTNL, the operator has approached several big names, including Verizon, Orange, BT, AT&T and Cable & Wireless, over a possible partnership to deliver 3G services in its key markets of Delhi and Mumbai. It is also believed to be interested in talking to Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile), Telstra and Hutchison.

According to the report, any potential partner would be allowed to sell 3G services either under the MTNL brand or through a separate 3G services brand, though MTNL does not want a partner with a competing telecoms license. The global partner will be required to bring in necessary resources and infrastructure to acquire, serve and retain customers; provide customer care and set up its own payment collection system and sales and distribution network. Times of India notes that such a move would be “the first time any state-owned firm in India has attempted such a brave and far-sighted move.” However, recent reports have suggested that rival state-owned operator BSNL is mulling a similar strategy. As state-owned entities, both MTNL and BSNL have been allocated 3G spectrum ahead of the delayed private auction for Indian 3G spectrum scheduled for later this year.