India's largest service provider, Bharti Airtel, has acquired Videocon Telecom's spectrum in six circles (service areas) for a fee of 44.28 billion Indian rupees (US$664.1 million) as part of a spectrum trading deal.
"Bharti Airtel has entered into a definitive agreement with Videocon Telecommunications Limited to acquire… rights to use 2x5MHz spectrum in the 1800MHz band," Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) informed the Bombay Stock Exchange in a statement published earlier today.
The news comes a day after Idea Cellular Ltd. , India's third-biggest operator, announced that its INR33.1 billion ($496.8 million) deal to acquire Videocon Telecommunications Ltd. 's spectrum in the two circles of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh (West) had fallen through.
Videocon owns 1800MHz spectrum in the circles of Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) and Gujarat. The licenses Airtel is acquiring are valid until December 18, 2032.
Airtel seems likely to use this spectrum to expand its 4G services in these circles. The 4G device ecosystem is better developed in the 1800MHz frequency band than in other ranges, such as 2.3GHz. Moreover, Airtel has already built up a collection of 1800MHz licenses, having acquired spectrum in 15 circles in a 2014 auction as well as concessions covering five service areas during a government sale last year.
The Indian market is witnessing a number of consolidation deals. Reliance Communications Ltd. recently acquired Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd. , India's only pure-play CDMA operator. It is also in merger talks with Aircel Ltd. , India's fifth-biggest operator. Airtel, meanwhile, had earlier acquired Augere Wireless, which owned spectrum in two circles. It is looking to enhance its spectrum tally before archrival Reliance Jio commercially launches 4G services later this year. (See MTS India Merges With RCom, RCom-Aircel Fine-Tune Merger Terms, Airtel Gets 4G Ammunition With Augere Acquisition and RJio Sputters Into Lyf With 4G 'Launch'.)
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading