More strategies in the 4G Clash of Titans: Airtel may buy Aircel 4G
The country is all set to witness the clash of telecom titans later this year as 4 tycoons in the ambit, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio are launching 4G services in India. To add some flavour to this discussed story, Bharti Airtel has recently had initial talks to buy Aircel's 4G airwaves in the 2300 Mhz band.
While both Airtel and Aircel denied any discussions people familiar with the matter said the talks involved Airtel buying Aircel's 4G bandwidth through the spectrum
"Some discussions have happened between very senior management of both the companies," one of the people told ET. "But lots of things need to be sorted out like the valuations, but importantly, the deal may fall foul of the spectrum cap rules in two circles - Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
The comes as the country's top GSM telcos Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular brace for a bitter battle for higher-paying data subscribers with Jio, which is set to launch 4G services in December.
Airtel currently holds a mix of 1800 Mhz and 2300 Mhz airwaves on which it deploys 4G technology across 15 of India's 22 circles. Aircel's airwaves in eight circles would give the Sunil Mittal-headed telco a 4G footprint across 18 circles, nearly on a par with Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio, the only operator to hold 4G airwaves across all 22 circles.
For Aircel, which has rolled out selected services in six of its eight 4G circles and is reeling under a debt of over Rs20,000 crore while being embroiled in the 2G scam, any deal will help generate funds to pare debt.
Moreover, Aircel doesn't want to get caught in the 4G fight between heavyweight GSM telcos such as Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular and a Jio-Reliance.
Aircel had paid Rs 3,438 crore to win 4G airwaves in the 2300 Mhz band in the 2010 spectrum auctions in eight of the 22 circles. However, five years later, the company has launched its services in six circles of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Assam and Jammu & Kashmir, but only for enterprise customers. It is yet to launch any services in the North East and West Bengal. It recently announced expansion of its network by adding 13,000 2G, 3G and 4G sites across the country by December.