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Wireless Infrastructure Newsletter

Reliance adds TV content and fifth tower deal to 4G plan June 04 2014

Reliance Jio Infocomm enhances economics of its TD-LTE network with stake in video provider, and tower pact with Ascend

By Caroline Gabriel

Reliance Jio Infocomm is positioning itself to be a major and disruptive 4G operator in India, when it launches TD-LTE services later this year. It has acquired a majority stake in TV and video provider Network 18, which could enable it to offer unique content bundles, and it has signed its fifth tower sharing deal to improve its economies of scale.

The company, which re-entered the telecoms space when it acquired Infocomm - the only holder of national BWA 2.3GHz spectrum - has now filed for approval to amalgamate its telecom units to improve efficiencies. In particular, it wants to merge its long distance subsidiary Infotel Telecom into its main operations so that it can provide all its communications services under a unified licence.

Reliance Jio has also applied to the Department of Telecom for approval to set up international gateways in Mumbai and Chennai to allow it to offer internet services in India.

While these changes would improve the economics of building up internet services, including those over 4G, Reliance Jio is also enhancing its cost base in mobile infrastructure. Its fifth tower sharing pact is with Ascend Telecom, which has a network of around 4,500 towers across India.

"Our partnership with Ascend Telecom is a continuation of our efforts to forge strategic partnership with key tower infrastructure companies to build a formidable nationwide network," said Reliance Jio Infocomm's managing director Sanjay Mashruwala.

The deal follows similar agreements with its former sister firm, Reliance Communications, plus Bharti Airtel, the largest Indian cellco, Infratel and ATC India.

The company is expected to launch commercial LTE services in the third quarter, with real world download speeds of 49Mbps. This would be a significant contribution to India's ailing bid to extend broadband access, but the mobile market is competitive and Reliance lacks any 2G or 3G networks for coverage and optimized voice, so it needs to provide added value services if it is to avoid a price war. This is likely to come from the $678m stake in Network 18 acquired by its parent firm, which could see free TV and online content bundled with 4G subscriptions.

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