The state-owned company had, for over a decade, refused to allow private companies to put up their antennas on its towers, fearing that doing so will allow the private players to overtake it.
However, over the last two years, the company has warmed up to the idea of leasing space on its towers to private players in exchange for money.
BSNL often owns towers in locations where others do not have any presence — such as in hilly areas — or where they can’t find any obvious location — such as in the center of a city or administrative block.
Many of BSNL’s towers are on its own property, including telephone exchanges.
Out of the 6,505 spaces that it has rented out, Bharti Airtel accounted for 2,251 slots. It was followed by Reliance Jio with 1,440 slots and Idea and Vodafone with just above 900 towers each.
However, BSNL is also starting to rent space on private companies’ towers as well. While it had rented out 6,505 slots on its towers, it had leased in 15,113 for its own use.
Telecom companies lease space to reduce network development and maintenance cost.
Most of BSNL’s rented equipment are placed on Viom Networks’ towers, which accounts for 4,017 out of the total, followed by GTL Infra at 2428, American Tower Co at 2235 and Ascend Telecom Infra with 2092 towers.
BSNL pays out almost twice the amount that it earns through tower sharing. In the year ended March 2015, it paid Rs 760 cr while it got Rs 398 cr from such deals.
Sharing of towers ensures that many components, such as diesel generators, masts and even ‘live’ equipment such as antenna, cable etc can be shared by more than one operator, reducing costs.
BSNL has seen its market share and profitability erode over the last two decades due to the entry of more customer-friendly private sector companies.
The state-owned company plans to roll out 4G services in many circles this year.
|BSNL TOWER RENTERS|