DoT approves Airtel's acquisition of Aircel's 4G spectrum rights

Telecom ministry is reported to have cleared the Rs3,500-crore 4G spectrum trading deal between service providers Bharti Airtel and Aircel, under which Airtel will use 20MHz of Aircel's 2,300-band 4G spectrum in eight telecom circles.

"The spectrum trading deal between Bharti Airtel and Aircel was cleared by the telecom minister on July 4," PTI quoted an official source as saying.

In a stock exchange filing Bharti Airtel said it has acquired rights to use 4G spectrum from Aircel in "six circles".

"We are pleased to share that the proposed transaction has successfully concluded for 6 out of 8 circles ... following the receipt of all necessary approvals and satisfying all the conditions (including conditions stated in the Spectrum Trading Guidelines)". The circles are Tamil Nadu (including Chennai), Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Assam and North East.

"We shall update the stock exchanges when the transactions for the remaining circles of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are completed," it said in the BSE filing.

Reports said DoT has asked the operator asked to surrender 1.2MHz spectrum in Odisha circle for granting approval as the deal breached the spectrum cap limit (including Aircel's spectrum), adding that the company has surrendered 1.2MHz spectrum in 1800MHz before the deal was cleared.

In a circle, no player can hold more than 25 per cent of the total spectrum allocated in that particular service area.

Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in a letter on 8 July, had demanded a freeze on the spectrum deal as it will give Aircel's Malaysian parent Maxis an escape route from the charges CBI had filed against it in the Aircel-Maxis case.

CBI had filed charges against Aircel/Maxis and its Malaysian owner T Ananda Krishnan. ED has filed cases against them and attached properties of former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, but not that of Maxis, the letter said.

The Malaysia-based Maxis Communications holds 74 percent in Aircel while the rest 26 per cent is with Sindya Securities and Investments.

CBI had, in August 2014, filed charges with the 2G special court, alleging that Maran had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Ananda Krishnan and "forced" Chennai-based telecom promoter C Sivasankaran to sell his stake in Aircel to Ananda Krishnan in lieu of investments by Maxis Group into Sun Direct TV (owned by Maran brothers).

Charges have been filed against Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanidhi Maran, Ananda Krishnan, Ralph Marshall (executive of the Maxis group) and four firms - Maxis Communication Berhad, Astro All Asia Network, Sun Direct TV Pvt, South Asia Entertainment Holdings in Mauritius.

Bhushan cited various occasions when courts issued summons to Ananda Krishnan, Marshall, Maxis Communications Berhad, and Astro All Asia Network, but there was no compliance.

"For a telecom operating company, spectrum is the main asset. Maxis should not be allowed to sell spectrum and equity unless all the accused Ananda Krishnan and firm Maxis comply with summons issued by the 2G special court," Bhushan said.