The ongoing slowdown has come as an opportunity for the telecom tower industry. New licence holders of mobile services including Telenor, Sistema-Shyam and Swan have based their roll out strategy on leasing towers from other companies. Even existing operators like Aircel and Idea are leasing passive infrastructure for rolling out network in new circles.
“There is a great demand for towers,” said Akhil Gupta, CEO of Indus and Bharti Infratel. Both are large tower companies.
“We are getting good business.”
A new operator would need about 60,000 towers for pan-India operations, costing Rs 20-30 lakh each — a tough ask for them.
“All the new operators will lease the entire passive network,” said the head of operations of a new licence holder. “Otherwise they can not survive.”
In fact, even existing operators like Aircel are leasing towers while rolling out network in other states. “Out of our 20,000 towers, 50 per cent are on lease,” said Sandip Das, CEO of Maxis, which owns 74 per cent equity in Aircel.
“The slowdown and the new mobile licences have come as an opportunity for tower companies,” said Prakash Ranjalkar, COO of GTL Infra, which has 10,000 towers. “New licence holders prefer independent firms like us for taking towers.”
GTL Infra plans to add another 6,000 towers in next financial year. By the end of 2011-12, the company plans to have 25,000 towers. “We have closed funding for this,” Ranjalkar said.