Russian mobile giants Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) and Vimpelcom have entered discussions over a potential tower sharing joint venture in a bid to cut costs, Reuters reports. Discussions about a new company are at an early stage, MTS spokeswoman Valeria Kuzmenko indicated, saying: ‘There are no finalised agreements, the discussions are being held with regards to the idea itself and a possible form of cooperation’. Meanwhile, Vimpelcom representatives suggested that the new entity would be in charge of building new towers as well as servicing existing ones. The third cellco making up the self-styled ‘Big Three’ mobile operators, MegaFon, was unwilling to confirm its participation in the talks. However, Tele2 Russia, which is generally frozen out from participating in multi-operator projects of this nature welcomed the talks. Chief technology officer Ritvars Krievs told Reuters: ‘We have our network development plans in regions and are always glad to synchronise them with other operators, saving on CAPEX and operating costs’.
Elsewhere, Russian business daily Vedomosti reports that the mooted tower company could be set up by MTS, Vimpelcom, Rostelecom and the state-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). The latter would bring cash to the table and retain an 85% stake in the joint venture. The operators, meanwhile, would retain a combined 15% stake in exchange for 700 towers apiece, and the joint venture would then acquire a further 14,800 towers for around USD1 billion.