India’s largest operator Bharti Airtel agreed to acquire 4G spectrum in eight service regions from smaller rival Aircel for INR35 billion ($525 million), which will give it a nationwide 4G footprint to match newcomer Reliance Jio’s pan-India coverage.
The spectrum trading deal will give Airtel 20MHz of 2.3GHz spectrum in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, North East, Odisha, Tamil Nadu (including Chennai) and West Bengal, the Economic Times (ET) said.
Airtel reported in January it was close to finalising a deal to buy 4G spectrum from Aircel, which is 74 per cent owned by Malaysia’s Maxis.
Airtel, which has a 24 per cent market share and offers 4G service in nearly 400 cities and towns in 15 regions, has worked out a number of spectrum deals over the past year to boost its 4G footprint ahead of Jio’s nationwide 4G launch, which has been delayed a number of times.
“The transfer of the right to use [4G spectrum] for Andhra Pradesh and Odisha is subject to revision of spectrum caps with the upcoming auction to be conducted by the telecom department,” Airtel said in a stock market filing.
The market leader announced last month it will spend INR44.3 billion to buy 10MHz of 1.8GHz spectrum from smaller rival Videocon in six regions. The spectrum is contiguous to Airtel’s existing spectrum in the 1.8GHz band. Last August it acquired 100 per cent of Augere Wireless Broadband, which owned 20MHz of 2.3GHz spectrum in the Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh region.
The deal with Airtel will enable Aircel, which has 87 million mobile connections and an eight per cent market share, to reduce its INR180 billion debt by about INR40 billion prior to a planned merger with Reliance Communications (RCom), ET said. The two companies started discussions in December and last month extended the exclusivity period by 60 days.