BSNL in talks with Reliance Jio for sharing tower infrastructure

Thomas K Thomas
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State-run telco has over 61,000 towers

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd is in talks with Reliance Jio for renting out its tower infrastructure across the country. BSNL has over 61,000 towers which is the second largest tower portfolio among all telecom companies.

Speaking to Business Line, Anupam Shrivastava, Director (Consumer Mobility) of BSNL, said, “The talks with Reliance Jio are in final stages. We have offered them a bulk deal whereby if they buy space on certain number of our towers we will give discounted rate.”

Similar deals

Shrivastava added that under the agreement that’s being discussed Reliance Jio can build towers wherever BSNL does not have presence for which the State-run telecom company will pay a monthly fee. “This way we can expand our network also and use the towers built by Reliance Jio,” he said.

Reliance Jio has already done multiple tower deals with Reliance Communications, Viom Networks, American Tower Corporation and Bharti Airtel.

Shrivastava, who has been selected to take over as the next Chairman and Managing Director of the public sector unit from July 1, said that BSNL has missed out an opportunity to become an infrastructure provider to private players.

“We should have started renting out our infrastructure to private players. That would have only made us stronger. Going forward we will look at opportunities to cooperate with private telcos,” Shrivastava said.

The Government has already initiated process for hiving off the tower assets of BSNL into a new company. Around 3,000 employees would be transferred to the new entity. Shrivastava said that BSNL has been focussing on data services in a bid to shore up higher revenues. “We are seeing good uptake of our data services. From a usage of 80 terabytes per day it has gone up to 130-140 terabytes a day,” he said.

BSNL has initiated discussions with the likes of Facebook to offer free access to popular applications. Facebook has done similar deals with private telcos, including Aircel and Reliance Communications, wherein users get free access to the social networking site.

BSNL is also changing the way it is rolling out its cellular network in a bid to give importance to areas which generate revenues. “Our network is not being utilised to the optimum because we have been rolling out everywhere. As a result we have network in areas where the investment required is ₹80,000 per month but we get revenues of only ₹30,000. So now we will invest in areas where we get revenues,” Shrivastava said.

4G services

He said that BSNL will not rush into offering 4G services. BSNL has broadband spectrum in 16 circles where it had earlier tried to do WiMax-based services. But now the company is looking to deploy LTE technology for 4G services.

“The handsets are still expensive so we will wait for the ecosystem to develop before jumping into 4G,” he said.

(This article was published on April 24, 2014)
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