Airtel buys Aircel's 4G spectrum for Rs3,500-cr to operate pan-India

Bharti Airtel has acquired Aircel's 4G spectrum in eight circles for Rs3,500 crore, in a deal that will enable the telecom operator to become a pan-India operator offering 4G services in all 22 telecom circles in the country.

Airtel will get access to 20 MHz of Aircel's 4G spectrum in eight circles such as Tamil Nadu (including Chennai), Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, West engal, Assam, the Northeast, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Airtel can use this spectrum till September 2030.

However, its use of spectrum in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha will be subject to the revision of spectrum caps expected during the upcoming auction by the Department of Telecommunications.

(Existing rules do not allow operators to own spectrum beyond a certain percentage of all airwaves available.)

''With the above acquisition, Bharti Airtel will become pan-India 4G operator,'' Airtel said.

The deal comes ahead of the mega launch of telecom services by Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio, which until now was the only player with pan-Indian 4G airwaves.

Airtel had acquired Videocon's 4G spectrum in the 1800 MHz band in six circles for Rs4,428 crore a few weeks ago. In all, Airtel has done three acquisitions over the last two-three years to expand its reach and equip itself for competition with the Ambani startup.

Aircel had earlier been looking for a possible consolidation with the Reliance Communication-MTS combine. That could not, however, be materialised due to high debt on the books of both the operators.

The merger with Jio will help Aircel to retire some of its Rs20,000 crore debt. RCom, meanwhile, has been trying to sell its tower assets to pare its debt.