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Airtel eyes BSNL’s spectrum

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on August 12, 2015

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Writes to PSU firm seeking intra-circle roaming deal

Bharti Airtel has sent out feelers to state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd for a deal to share spectrum. The company has proposed to enter into what is technically called an intra-circle roaming arrangement, which is a way of sharing airwaves. Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular already have a similar deal for 3G services.

“Bharti Airtel being one of the largest telecom service providers of India, would like to … partner with your organisation for the said arrangements to address issues pertaining to call drops and for optimum utilisation of allocated spectrum,” Airtel said in a letter to the BSNL Chairman.

“We sincerely hope that we would be given an equal opportunity to participate in a fair, open and transparent manner,” it added.

While Airtel has a pan-India footprint, BSNL does not have operations in Delhi and Mumbai. It does, however, have a roaming agreement with MTNL. A deal with Airtel, overlapping 22 circles, would create one of the biggest spectrum sharing arrangements in the country.

Although the guidelines for sharing spectrum are yet to be announced, operators have found a way to achieve similar objectives through intra-circle roaming arrangements.

For example, in Madhya Pradesh both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone did not have 3G spectrum in 2011 but managed to get subscribers because the two operators had inked an agreement to use Idea Cellular’s spectrum in that circle.

From the consumer’s point of view such an arrangement improves quality of service. The telecom tribunal has upheld the validity of such an arrangement.

Airtel’s latest letter to BSNL comes after concerns were raised that the PSU was opening up its spectrum and infrastructure to a single operator. BSNL had dismissed the worry and said that it was open to talking to all players.

Other operators, including Vodafone and Idea Cellular, are also expected to line up to get a deal with the PSU.

Published on August 12, 2015
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