State-owned BSNL is in advanced talks with Reliance Jio and Vodafone for signing a 2G roaming agreement this month.
"We are in advanced stages for signing 2G intra-circle roaming agreement with Reliance Jio and Vodafone. I believe agreement with them should be signed this month," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.
Under the agreement, customers of Reliance Jio and Vodafone will get access to BSNL network where there is a coverage gap. The state-run firm has deep presence in rural areas as other companies have invested very conservatively due to low return on investments.
Once the agreement is finalised, BSNL customers will also have access to the networks of Reliance Jio and Vodafone. In terms of mobile base stations, BSNL stands second in the country. It has around 1.14 lakh and is in process of installing another 21,000 mobile towers.
"Soon, we will start signing 3G intra-circle roaming agreement with other players. We are working on rates for 3G roaming agreement. Being a government firm, we need to have uniform rate for all companies," Shrivastava said.
With the telecom ministry objecting to the 3G-ICR among the telecom operators mainly Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, these players acquired customers using each others network in telecom circles where they did not have 3G spectrum.
The telecom tribunal TDSAT upheld the agreement signed by the private telecom operators. Shrivastava said under 3G-ICR agreement, BSNL will follow law of the land. The public sector firm also held discussion with telecom major Bharti Airtel for spectrum sharing in two circles - Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
"We had discussion with Airtel for spectrum sharing in three circles - 1800, 900 and 2100 Mhz band. If talks are finalised, then we will liberalise spectrum in these circles," Shrivastava added. With liberalised spectrum, BSNL will be able to provide 4G service to its customers through the airwaves which it is currently using for 2G services.
When contacted, Airtel spokesperson said, "We have only held preliminary discussions with BSNL in the past and there is nothing ongoing or at an advanced stage.
"Being a PSU, BSNL will always run a transparent process for spectrum sharing and the same will be open to all operators. As and when that were to happen, Airtel will examine and explore possibilities of cooperation." The spectrum sharing allows companies to share burden of government levies. It also helps increase wireless bandwidth capacity for providing good quality mobile services.