Rivals Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel now speak of collaboration

Arch rivals Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm are looking at collaboration than competition as rivalry has cost both telcos and the industry of precious revenue and has even driven a few out of business.

Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal and Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani have now realised the importance of cooperation and collaboration between telcos for the growth of the sector, reports quoting telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said.

''Both Mittal and Ambani said India is a large enough growth market for more than one player, and that there is lot of room for collaboration, and that it is only through collaborations between industry players, and industry and government, can the telecom sector grow,'' Sundararajan said on the second day of India Mobile Congress (IMC).

She also pointed to the spirit of bonhomie between Mittal and Ambani on the opening day of IMC, when both telecom chieftains underscored the need for cooperation between telcos to fuel India's march towards a digital economy.

In fact, Mittal had said that Bharti looked forward to collaborating with Jio Infocomm in future, hinting at a possible collaboration.

Ambani too had referred to Mittal as his ''good friend'' in his speech, and said the telecom industry had the urgent task of empowering 1.3 billion Indians with tools needed to flourish in the digital marketplace.

The telecom secretary said India's smartphone penetration was a modest 35 per cent, while internet penetration was even lower, which leaves out a 'huge growth market''.

On the next spectrum sale, Sundararajan said the telecom department is awaiting recommendations of the sector regulator, but added that timing of the next auction would hinge ''on appetite of the telecom industry for additional spectrum , and how ready they are''.

On Mittal's views on spectrum being costliest in India, she said the sector regulator would soon be recommending new policies to the government on steps required to ensure long term growth of the telecom sector, which would be factored into the purview of the new telecom policy.

''As part of the new telecom policy, if 5G is to take off, the DoT will look at what kind of spectrum bands need to be provided, what should be the policy for allotment, what is the optimal size of spectrum that needs to be given, what should be the pricing like… all this will be looked at,'' said the telecom secretary.

On the incumbents' call urgent government intervention to address rising financial stress in the sector, Sundararjan reiterated that the Telecom Commission, which is examining the inter-ministerial group's suggestions, has sought additional details. "This is an evolving scenario, and I think it's desirable for the government to take the sum totality of circumstances into account, before taking a view. When we had the TC meeting last time, it had asked for additional details, which are being provided," she said.