First came the thaw, now comes the flood. Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and boss of Reliance Industries, and his younger brother Anil Ambani, who runs Reliance Communications, today announced an agreement to share telecom tower infrastructure.
The deal has been expected ever since Mukesh leased Anil’s 120,000 km (75,000 miles) optical-fibre cable network for a one-time payment of Rs 12 billion ($221 million) in April. That was the first sign of a warming of relations between the brothers, who have been estranged since the death of their father and the subsequent fighting over the Reliance business empire, nearly a decade ago. But with a value of 120 billion rupees ($2.1 billion), today’s tower deal dwarfs the cable agreement and points to significantly improving relations between the Ambanis.
Mukesh will pay Anil to use Reliance Communications’ 45,000 towers for his new nationwide 4G service, called Reliance Jio. As with the previous deal, it’s a win-win for both parties. Mukesh can get on with rolling out Jio’s service while the $2.1 billion will help Anil’s Reliance Communications fill its $6 billion debt hole.
Jio’s deal with Reliance Communication is the latest in a whirlwind of agreements aimed at getting the service going. Over the past two months, the company has tied up with Vodafone and Airtel to build or share undersea fibre-optic cables and reports suggest it is working with Samsung to bring super-cheap 4G phones to India. Yesterday, Mukesh announced that the company will hire another 7,000 workers in the next year, bringing its total workforce to 10,000. Mukesh also promised rock-bottom prices for the service. If all goes well, Jio should be up and running by the middle of next year.