Middle East-based operator group Etisalat confirmed it will cease operations in India on 31 March as it commits to exiting the market. The company said last month it would close its Etisalat DB network following the Indian Supreme Court decision to cancel 122 2G spectrum licences.
In a statement on the website of Cheers Mobile, the brand used for Etisalat DB’s services in the country, it said that “customers are encouraged to ‘port out’ their Cheers number to a network of their choice as soon as possible.”
Etisalat holds around 45 percent of Etisalat DB (formerly Swan Telecom), for which it paid US$900 million in 2008, with partner Majestic Infracon owning a similar-sized stake. The unit holds 15 of the licences that were cancelled by the regulators, having been issued through a much-criticised licensing process in 2008.
"The decision of the Supreme Court… has removed [our] ability to operate [in India]. Etisalat DB will be taking steps to reduce operating costs, including the suspension of its network and services,” Etisalat said in a statement back in February.
The licences were cancelled after it was argued that the licences issued in 2008 were done so without a proper competitive process and deemed to have been allocated unfairly. The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India last week released a consultation paper on plans to conduct an auction for the 2G spectrum to allocate it on a fairer basis.
Fellow Middle-East operator group Batelco has also announced its intention to withdraw from India by selling its 42.7 percent stake in STel to Sky City Foundation for US$174.5 million.
Nordic operator group Telenor meanwhile said it was seeking compensation from Unitech, its partner in Indian operator Uninor, following the cancellation of the licences. Telenor’s reasoning was that the licence allocation took place before Telenor became involved in the venture. The company has since been reported to be trying to drop Unitech as a partner and planning to migrate its existing business to a new Indian unit.