Vodafone and Idea Cellular have provided details about the sale of their respective Indian tower businesses ahead of a merger of the two operators.

The companies, which touted the move in March, have agreed a combined INR78.5 billion ($1.2 billion) deal with ATC Telecom Infrastructure Private Limited (TIPL), an India-based tower provider.

The passive infrastructure portfolios of Vodafone and Idea Cellular, comprising around 20,000 towers across the country, will be sold in separate transactions with Vodafone set to receive $592 million and Idea $615 million.

Both Vodafone and Idea will remain preferred partners of ATC TIPL, while 6,300 sites where equipment is co-located will lapse into single tenancy agreements in two years without exit penalties required.

The sale is expected to close in the first half of next year and is designed to boost the balance sheets of both companies ahead of their $23.1 billion merger, also expected to close in 2018.

The merger will create the leading communications provider in India with almost 400 million customers and a 35 percent market share.

The combined company will be jointly controlled by Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group, which owns Idea.

Both companies are facing pressure from Reliance Jio, which launched commercially in September 2016 and has quickly scaled to 138.6 million customers by offering free data plans.

Revenue at Vodafone India fell 8.7 percent in the year to 30 June to £1.39 billion.

The UK-based operator reveals its financials for the three months to 30 September tomorrow (14 November).

Read more: Vodafone ties new brand strategy to “tech for good” theme

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