Jio and Airtel in surprise 4G tie-up

11 Dec 2013

Bharti Airtel has inked an infrastructure sharing deal with 4G startup Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecoms division of petrochemical giant Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), granting the newcomer pan-India access to Airtel’s infrastructure, whilst offering Airtel access to fibre-optic lines installed by Jio. The Economic Times writes that the deal will speed up Jio’s launch, whilst providing an additional revenue stream for Airtel, the nation’s largest cellco by subscribers. The partnership is also reported to extend to jointly laying fibre-optic cable and other infrastructure. Both operators noted that the primary reason behind the partnership was to cut down the duplication of infrastructure wherever possible in order to save capital and limit the impact on the environment. Bharti Airtel is currently the only operator in India to offer 4G services, having launched a Time Division Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) network in April 2012, whilst Jio was the only operator to win pan-India 4G spectrum at auction in 2010. The alliance came as a surprise to observers, as the two firms have long been perceived as ‘bitter’ rivals, with first-mover Airtel expecting to have its position challenged by the newcomer when it commercially launches its network.