Vodafone India and Idea Cellular signed separate deals with infrastructure investment company American Tower to sell 20,000 tower sites for a combined INR78.5 billion ($1.2 billion).

In both deals, the companies agreed to become “preferred partners” to American Tower – which means the two will secure preferential rights to continue using the sites alongside the infrastructure company’s other assets.

Confirmation of the India deal follows media speculation in October American Towers was the likely candidate to purchase the sites after both operators voiced their intention to sell during Q1.

In a statement, Vodafone and Idea said the transaction would strengthen the respective balance sheets of each company ahead of their proposed merger. Vodafone will receive INR38.5 billion for its towers, while Idea will receive INR40 billion.

Regulators are currently assessing Vodafone and Idea’s plan to combine their businesses to create India’s largest wireless network operator. The merger deal is expected to close in mid 2018, while the American Tower transaction is slated for Q1 2018, subject to regulatory approval.

American Tower CEO Jim Taiclet said: “We expect the addition of these two high quality portfolios to be highly complementary to our existing assets and to contribute to long-term leasing growth as India’s leading mobile operators accelerate their 4G network deployments.”

American Tower already has a significant presence in India as part of its portfolio of 149,000 worldwide sites.