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American Tower Corporation looks at mergers and acquisitions to boost presence in India
October, 07th 2014

American Tower Corporation (ATC) is betting on the need for more telecom towers in India as the country's data consumption surges and 4G is adopted widely even as the Boston-based company looks at mergers and acquisitions to grow its presence, its top official in the region said. Telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular are focusing on upgrading their existing sites to support growing data demand instead of investing much in adding new sites in the country, Amit Sharma, ATC's vice-president and president for Asia operations told ET.

"Reliance Jio, the sole pan-India BWA (broadband wireless access) licence holder, is establishing a greenfield network, which requires a big number of new towers, whereas incumbent telcos are just upgrading their existing large networks to include new technology," he said. But with data consumption on an upswing and 4G expected to have wider adoption in two to three years, the existing operators will also need to put up more towers, besides upgrading their network.

"All of them are at different stages of development of their plans for large-scale roll-out. Their existing network and number of sites will probably require significant increase in next twothree years," Sharma said. The number of towers in India will double in the next five years to 800,000, he added. In India, 3G consumption is on the upswing while 4G is still at the nascent stages due to selective launch by Airtel and Aircel.

With Reliance Jio readying for its 4G launch early next year, data demand is expected to shoot up considerably. "Data is very unforgiving. If you don't have good coverage, it will impact your business," Sharma said. The company's portfolio has increased to 12,500 towers from 11,938 at the end of March. ATC will install new towers in the country on the basis of demand from its customers among telecom operators, Sharma said.

In April, ATC had tied up with Reliance Jio Infocomm to help the firm roll out its much-awaited high-speed data and voice services faster and at a lower cost across India. Asked about the impact of Reliance Jio deal, Sharma said that any growth was good for the company, but declined to comment on the transaction specifically.

ATC is now reportedly in talks to buy a significant stake in its larger rival, local tower operator Viom Networks, to grow its footprints in the country. While declining to comment on this development, Sharma said ATC was open to merger and acquisition.

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