Sunil Mittal’s Airtel plans to merge with Vodafone-Idea in optic fiber business

Sunil Mittal

Speaking at the ongoing Mobile world Congress in Barcelona, Sunil Mittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel said his company is currently in talks with Vodafone-Idea Limited for a merger in the optical fiber network. He said if the envisioned merger happens then Airtel and Vodafone-Idea will work as a joint venture in the optical fiber space.

“We have made an invitation. We did that in towers — if you remember, Indus Towers was created. And on the same lines, we have asked Vodafone Idea to come and join the fiber company. It will be a two-party JV. We are starting with our own fiber company and if Vodafone Idea brings its fiber assets, then they will get appropriate shares.” Mittal told reporters on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress.

“Vodafone has a lot of fiber, we have a lot of fiber and when we combine these, both the companies will gain about 25 per cent capacity on routes we don’t have, but importantly all the future build for fiber starts to become common,” he added.

The merger if happened could be the next big thing in the Indian telecom market. Earlier before this Vodafone and Idea merged in a single entity to face the growing clout of Reliance Jio in the wireless network space.

Along with this Bharti Airtel is planning to run its optical fiber business through a wholly owned subsidiary with the name- Telesonic Network Ltd. While Vodafone-idea also spun off its fiber business into a wholly owned Subsidiary, all this is done to raise some capital by monetizing a separate fiber business.

When asked if Bharti Airtel’s new initiative was also open for Jio, Mittal said: “From my point of view, the more the merrier… (But) first let’s get the Voda thing going, then we will see after.”

The new merger deal if happens will be like venture for Indus Towers, the largest telecom tower company, is a three-way joint venture among Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India.

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