Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications is fighting incumbent GSM giants on the ground and in the government.
Rcom has launched an aggressive plan to roll out 70,000 to 80,000 more telecom towers to run both CDMA and GSM operations while it is invoking the Right to Information (RTI) to elicit information from the government to pin down rivals in its bid to make them return excess wireless spectrum.
RCom’s GSM rivals are also aggressive on the tower front. Bharti Airtel's tower company Bharti Infratel joined Idea and Vodafone Essar on Saturday by announcing a joint venture, Indus Towers. RCom, which is now expanding as a major GSM player to build on its hold as a CDMA leader, is using an Internet portal to interact with site owners for towers through its affiliate, Reliance Tower Infrastructure Limited.
Company officials say any site owner in the country can use the portal to offer details on location, topography and presence of any tower in the vicinity, bypassing intermediaries to identify sites, as is the current practice. Sources close to the development say that overall cost of site acquisition is expected to go down by 25 to 30 per cent.
Initially over 50,000 tower sites would be acquired, out of which 20,000 odd site acquisitions would be completed this fiscal year, the sources said. All the new telecom towers of the company have a capacity to cater to about seven tenants that are expected to offer service to other telecom players as well as broadcast and broadband operators.
Sources in Reliance Communications also say that with the entry of at least two to three new telecom operators with pan-India operations, the company expects its valuation to increase by 25 per cent. Currently the valuation of RTIL is $9 billion. At present, most of the towers cater to just about two operators.
Reliance Communications is also in talks with American Towers Company, Global Towers and a clutch of financial investors to sell up 26 per cent stake in RTIL, followed by a further 10 per cent equity dilution through an initial public offering (IPO) of shares.
Meanwhile, Reliance Communication has filed 6 applications under the Right To Information to seek details on the manner in which additional spectrum up to 10 MHz was allotted to GSM operators. RCom has also sought details on the one-time fee paid by these operators to get additional spectrum after the initial allotment of 4.4 MHz.
It has also questioned how Airtel received the spectrum in 900 MHz band in West Bengal, when being the fourth cellular operator, it was entitled spectrum only under 1800MHz.
The letters are expected to increase the pressure on Department of Telecommunications which is being blamed for allotting to GSM operators much more spectrum than they require.