RCom, Tata Tele to share 2G towers

Dylan Bushell-Embling
Indian majors Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices have signed an agreement to share 2G base stations in 14 of India's 22 telecom circles.
The operators have arranged to use 5,000 of each others' towers,India's Economic Times reported. RCom's towers to be shared use the CDMA standard, while Tata's use GSM.
For RCom, the agreement builds on its existing tower sharing arrangements with Aircel and Loop. The three deals give RCom access to an additional 10,000 towers besides the 45,000 it currently owns.
The operator has also signed a major tower sharing as well as a fiber sharing pact with Reliance Industries, which is rolling out a nationwide 4G network. RCom and Reliance Industries are controlled by brothers Anil and Mukesh Ambani respectively.
Tata Teleservices will meanwhile be able to use the additional towers to maintain 2G network quality after it surrenders its spectrum holdings above 2.5 MHz in most circles to avoid paying a government-imposed 11.5 billion rupee ($192.8 million) one-time excess spectrum fee.
India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has opposed tower-sharing or roaming pacts between operators on the grounds that they amount to spectrum sharing, which is prohibited. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea were famously recently ordered to stop offering 3G services under their 3G roaming pact.
But the Department of Telecom has backed intra-circle 2G roaming pacts, arguing that they do not alter an operator's network capacity.