Reliance Jio Signs a Deal with GTE Infrastructure to Launch 4G in India by March 2015

With an aim to expedite the full roll-out of 4G by March 2015, Reliance Jio Infocomm has signed a tower-sharing deal with GTL Infrastructure. This deal will also help control costs at this stage of service deployment.

Sanjay Mashruwala, Managing Director of Reliance Jio Infocomm said, “Our mission is to launch pan-India next-generation voice and data services. We will build the same through a judicious combination of own build and rented infrastructure.” Further, he addedthat the GTL deal is “not only a step in that direction but will also help us accelerate our roll out.”

Reliance Jio has been actively entering into a number of infrastructure-sharing agreements with telecommunication companies that have existing passive infrastructure in place. In addition to quickening the pace of its launch, avoiding duplication of infrastructure, and lowering capital costs, this move can also help limit environmental damage since telecommunication towers tend to be heavy consumers of diesel.

Reliance Jio’s Roll-out Plans

The company intends to lease about 70,000 towers and install approximately 30,000 of its own. Since it aims to launch 4G data and voice services in the coming year, these figures also include smaller cell sites on single poles. According to the agreement with GTL Infrastructure, Reliance Jio will use about 30,000 of their telecom towers spread all over the country.

Last year, the company had announced an infrastructure-sharing deal with Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCOM). The deal proposed to use some or all of the 48,000 towers that are held by RCOM’s Reliance Infratelunit. Another tower-sharing agreement was also signed with Bharti Infratel along with an infrastructure deal with Bharti Group that allows Reliane Jio to use Airtel’s subsea cable network.

Picking up Pace

A spokesperson from the Switzerland-based multinational financial services company,Credit Suisse, said that Reliance Jio is very much on track with its plans to launch 4G services by March 2015. It has completed installation of about 32,000 Long Term Evolution (LTE) base stations across the country. Furthermore, the pace at which the installations take place has picked up to about 6,500 per month as compared to the rate of about 3,000 per month in May 2014.

Furthermore, the spokesperson said that that developments in the global LTE handset ecosystem is pushing down price-points at a fast pace. This means that sub-$100 LTE smart phones could soon become a reality. This shift in the market could be rather disruptive in India, where the top 30% of customers accounts for 70% of the revenues in the telecommunications sector.

Reliance Jio’s Airwaves License Agreements

Reliance Jioowns pan-India airwaves in the 2300MHz band since May 2010 and must deploy its 4G services by May 2015 to comply with its license agreement. It has also won the 1800MHz band airwaves at an auction in February this year. It is believed that this will be used to launch 4G data services and 2G voice services.

The spokesperson adds that Reliance Jio has also awarded a second LTE base station contract to Samsung for 50,000 to 70,000 units. This could result in the network size of the telecommunications company crossing 100,000 base stations.

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