Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are in talks to create a joint venture for their fibre infrastructure, along the same lines as their shared telecom tower firm, Indus Towers. The Economic Times quotes Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal as saying: ‘We have asked Vodafone Idea to come and join the fibre company … We are starting with our own fibre company and if Vodafone Idea brings its fibre assets, then they will get appropriate shares.’ The official acknowledged that the two companies’ fibre footprints have ‘a lot of overlaps’ but estimated that by combining the two networks each operator would improve capacity and gain access to new routes. More importantly, Mr Mittal added, future fibre rollouts would be common, allowing the providers to invest more efficiently in network deployment and development.
In a related development, meanwhile, Airtel’s board has approved plans to raise up to INR320 billion (USD4.5 billion) through equity and bond sales. INR250 billion would be raised though a rights issue, whilst a further INR70 billion would be raised through foreign currency perpetual bonds. The bulk of the proceeds would be used to repay a portion of the group’s debts – the company has a debt pile of around INR1.15 trillion, roughly INR800 billion of which was related to its Indian operations.