India Extends Network Sharing Rules

India's telecom body aims to cut operator costs by extending network-sharing rules to active infrastructure

April 2, 2008

3 Min Read
India Extends Network Sharing Rules

India's Department of Telecommunications (DOT) has handed the country's mobile operators, which are adding new subscribers at a rate of more than 8 million each month, a new way to save network rollout costs by enabling them to share their active infrastructure for the first time. (See Indian Mobile Carriers Add 8.4M Subs and New Report Maps Out Indian Market.)

The country's carriers have already been given the green light to share their passive infrastructure, such as towers and cell sites, and have been making great strides to pool their resources and create new businesses. (See Indian Operators in Sharing Mood, Tata to Sell Tower Stake, and Reliance Infratel Files for IPO.)

Now the DOT has issued guidelines stating that the "sharing of active infrastructure amongst Service Providers based on the mutual agreements entered amongst them is permitted" in order to "reduce [the] input cost of Telecom access Service Providers."

The DOT noted that "active infrastructure sharing will be limited to antenna, feeder cable, Node B, Radio Access Network (RAN) and transmission system only," and will not include "sharing of the allocated spectrum."

That's good news for all of India's operators, and particularly for the group of newly licensed operators that need to build new networks and customer bases from scratch. (See Indian Gov't Grants Mobile Licenses and India: Licensed to Thrill.)

The news comes as the Indian operators prepare for the award of 3G licenses, something they've been expecting to happen for several years. (See India on Edge Over 3G.)

Now, though, there are signs that the DOT might auction 3G spectrum before the end of 2008, and some local reports suggest the number of initial winners might be limited to just three operators, each with a limited amount of spectrum. As yet, however, there have been no official announcements. (See India Plans 3G Auction.)

Carriers and vendors are hopeful of some movement this year, though.

An executive from state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) , one of the country's largest carriers with 34.6 million GSM customers at the end of February 2008, told Light Reading recently, under conditions of anonymity, that the operator was expecting to be granted 3G spectrum in the second half of 2008. (See A Guide to India's Telecom Operators.)

And Rajat Singh, the senior manager for region marketing and business development at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), believes the signs are good for 3G spectrum allocation in the next year, "but not before the third quarter. The operators are ready and so are we."

AlcaLu's relationship with local vendor ITI Ltd. , which has helped land it some of India's GSM infrastructure action, will continue into the 3G systems market, Singh adds.

Similarly, Deepak Mahajan, head of marketing, home and networks mobility, at Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)'s Indian operations, believes it's "quite possible" that 3G spectrum will be awarded this year, though he believes that spectrum in the 2.5GHz band for mobile WiMax services might be awarded first.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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