Airtel & Vodafone - Rivals(?) in India, Friends outside

Vodafone and Bharti Airtel are extending their alliance to markets abroad. Jersey Airtel and Guernsey Airtel, subsidiaries of Bharti Enterprises, on Tuesday announced that they have entered into an agreement with Vodafone to offer telecom services in Jersey and Guernsey (islands in Europe, close to UK) under the ‘Airtel-Vodafone’ brand name. [IS THIS AN INDICATION OF SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME IN INDIA AS WELL?]

Services in these islands are expected to be launched shortly. Last year, Bharti was granted licenses to operate 2G and 3G mobile services in Jersey and Guernsey. The tie-up will enable Airtel to bring in a range of Vodafone services, customised to the needs of customers in Jersey and Guernsey, the company said. These will include Vodafone Passport, a simple roaming price plan; Vodafone Simply, a straightforward voice and data package; Vodafone Mobile Connect Card for laptops, all brought to customers by Airtel. Also on offer will be a range of services for business customers.

Both Vodafone and Bharti enjoy a history of friendly ties. The UK-based cellular major had picked up a 10% stake in Bharti Airtel in September 2005, but is currently in the process of reducing its holdings to 4.4% after acquiring a controlling stake in Hutchison-Essar. Vodafone and Bharti had also entered into a comprehensive MoU in India recently for telecom infrastructure sharing. As per the MoU, Bharti Airtel will be the preferred vendor of Vodafone for national and international long distance services and leased line services. This will also see Vodafone give 50% of its in-bound international roaming traffic to Bharti Airtel for three years.

In fact, both Bharti and Vodafone are also looking at pooling their resources in future for a common network as part of their comprehensive range of infrastructure sharing options in India. If the reporting of one of the leading newspapers in India is to be believed Mr Mittal has already said - "Complete sharing of our existing networks cannot be ruled out,”

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