Reliance Jio Infocomm is in talks to lease more signal emitting sites, or base transmission stations (BTS), from tower companies such as Indus Towers and American Tower Corporation (ATC) to plug gaps in its urban networks, which have emerged as key to its year-end launch plans, according to a report.
The Economic Times cited three people familiar with the development as saying the actual number of sites, which seems to be a moving target, has been quoted at its lowest for 35,000 tower tenancies. One of the people said the Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio requires at least 15,000 additional sites immediately if there is to be a service launch in major cities by October.
The company is focused on a city-centric outlay initially, because after several studies it has found that its best opportunity to find internet users does not lie in rural India, one of the people said.
The remaining tenancies are being sought until December when the company now hopes to launch commercial services.
Jio has approached the country's two largest tower companies Indus Towers and ATC with a figure of around 35,000 tenancies along with a hard press to get discounts.
However, ATC, which runs around 56,000 towers, and market leader Indus, which owns nearly 1,20,000 towers, are so far not rising to the bait as they realise Jio does not have time to build for itself, the report said. "One can only hope better sense prevails because neither the time nor financials work for a private build out," said one of the three people quoted earlier.
Another said Reliance Jio had sought out some 60,000 towers at 60 per cent discount, which tower operators simply couldn't do without ruining the market for themselves. "It is a client's job to push and ours to push back to the point that it makes sense."
A fourth person said while Jio is negotiating for so many tenancies, given the layout of telecom towers in the country, a larger discount doesn't amount to all tenancies going to a single tower company.