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India’s leading GSM players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular have announced the merger of their wireless infrastructure businesses in 16 circles to share 70,000 tower units and also form the world’s largest ‘independent’ tower company. Called Indus Towers Ltd, Bharti and Vodafone will each have a 42% equity in this infrastructure firm, while Idea Cellular will hold the remaining 16%, the telcos companies said in a joint statement.

“The idea is that Indus will be a truly independent tower company, where no player enjoys a majority stake. We are looking at listing Indus Towers at the earliest, but it is for the new board of this company to set the time frame for this,” Bharti Airtel’s joint MD, Akhil Gupta said. Bharti and Vodafone will contribute 29,400 towers each to Indus with Idea bringing in 11,200 towers. Bharti Infratel, the hived off tower arm of Bharti Airtel will retain the company’s passive infrastructure in the remaining 7 telecom circles. “Infratel will be left with about 20,000 after the creation of Indus,” Mr Gupta said.

The move will enable all three service providers to and increase efficiencies and reduce expansion costs. “The three companies will each merge their existing passive infrastructure assets in 16 telecom circles in India. Indus Towers will provide passive infrastructure services to all operators on a nondiscriminatory basis. Indus Towers will enable optimisation of future tower roll-out and enhanced operational efficiency leading to opex and capex savings for its customers,” the joint statement by the three service providers added.

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