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Indian market leaders reach 3G roaming agreement

Each of India’s three largest operators will soon be able to provide their own nationwide 3G service, with reports suggesting that Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Bharti Airtel have signed a cross-circle roaming agreement.

Vodafone confirmed that it has “entered into a bilateral roaming agreement with Idea and Airtel in circles where we have not built our own 3G network. With this agreement, Vodafone / Airtel / Idea will bring a pan-India experience of 3G services to their customers.”

No nationwide 3G licences were awarded in India’s spectrum auctions last year. The country is divided into 22 telecom circles - Reliance Communications, Aircel and Bharti hold licences for 13 of these, while Vodafone, Tata and Idea hold licences for 9 circles.

The infrastructure-sharing agreement will allow Idea to provide services in Delhi and Kolkata over Vodafone’s 3G network. Karnataka and Gujarat are the areas in which Bharti and Idea will share, while Vodafone will begin offering services in western Uttar Pradesh via Bharti’s infrastructure, and in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala via Idea’s.

Details on pricing remain thin on the ground, with Gartner analyst Shaily Shah noting: “This sort of arrangement is relatively new in the Indian market. Perhaps operators want to be sure on the outcome before highlighting them,” adding that “more such tie-ups amongst operators are in the pipeline.”

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