Bharti Buys Into Qualcomm's 4G Unit

Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) has extended its 4G reach in India with a US$165 million investment in the Long Term Evolution Time Division Duplex (LTE TDD) operation owned by wireless chip giant Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM).

When India auctioned its Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) airwaves (in the 2.3GHz band) in 2010, Qualcomm splashed out 49.1 billion Indian rupees ($888 million) to win spectrum in four key "circles" (service areas): Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala. (See India's BWA Auction Ends in $8.2B Drama and Qualcomm Wins India Spectrum.)

But Qualcomm never intended to be a service provider: It just wanted to ensure that spectrum would be used for LTE TDD services rather than WiMax. (See Qualcomm Unveils LTE Plans for India.)

Now Bharti has bought a 49 percent stake in Qualcomm's BWA operation in India at what looks like a knock-down price. And Bharti, which has already launched 4G services in two of the circles, where it won BWA licenses in 2010, intends to acquire the remaining 51 percent within the next few years.

Check out these articles and blogs from the Light Reading India team to get the full story.

Bharti's move comes as India's telecom sector suffers something of a slowdown, caused mainly by a series of decisions and proposed measures by the country's authorities that have seen some operators quit the sector and brought investment to a near standstill. (See IndiaWatch: Telecom Panel To Auction 10-MHz Spectrum, India Suffers From Policy Hiatus, Policy Paralysis Hits Telecom Sector and India Stuck in Pause Mode.)

The impact of that slowdown is the subject of Light Reading India's Mobile and Spectrum Crisis Survey, the results of which will be discussed at the upcoming Mobile Broadband Summit one-day events in Delhi and Mumbai on June 5 and 7, respectively.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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