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NEW DELHI : Network-as-a-service provider CloudExtel on Thursday said it is in talks with investors to raise 500 crore to build 40,000 small cell sites that carriers like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea can use.

After setting up the first such sharable network at the Mumbai Central railway station, the company is looking at expanding its services with an investment outlay of 2,000 crore over the next five years.

“We’re in talks, looking to raise about a quarter of the capex that we will need over the next four to five years," said Kunal Bajaj, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Mumbai-based company. He declined to comment on the size of equity CloudExtel plans to offload and the potential bidders.

“The capex is broadly going to be split towards small cell site hosting business and equally into expanding our fiber network, both underground and overhead, and into active infrastructure sharing," Bajaj said.

CloudExtel’s network at Mumbai Central station consists of base stations, radios, antennas, cabling, backhaul, fiber transmission and all other elements that have been built, owned and operated by the company. Customers using networks of Airtel or Vodafone Idea would seamlessly move to CloudExtel’s network when they arrive at the station and then back on to the carrier networks once they step outside.

This virtualization of networks adds capacity for telcos such as Airtel and Vodafone Idea without them having to spend additionally towards building the infrastructure themselves, bringing cost effectiveness while easing network congestion in high-density areas. Bajaj said the network was currently handling a terabyte of capacity every day, with over 2,000 people using the network every minute; yet the user experience has improved from 3 Mbps to 20 Mbps.

“We will be expanding to nine other stations south from Churchgate of Mumbai Central," he said, adding that the company was ready to deploy the network in airports, malls and other densely populated areas.

The company has also ventured into fibre to the home, and has spanned its coverage in over 120,000 homes in Bombay. “Were now expanding that footprint to Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata," Bajaj said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gulveen Aulakh

Gulveen Aulakh is Senior Assistant Editor at Mint, serving dual roles covering the disinvestment landscape out of New Delhi, and the telecom & IT sectors as part of the corporate bureau. She had been tracking several government ministries for the last ten years in her previous stint at The Economic Times. An IIM Calcutta alumnus, Gulveen is fluent in French, a keen learner of new languages and avid foodie.
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