India’s largest mobile provider by subscribers, Bharti Airtel, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the 4G business of wireless broadband provider Tikona Digital Networks (TDN) for approximately INR16 billion (USD244.38 million). The acquisition includes TDN’s 4G-compatible broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum holdings, comprising 20MHz blocks of 2300MHz band airwaves in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh East (UPE), Uttar Pradesh West (UPW), Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh (HP), as well as a total of 350 sites across the five circles. The takeover will substantially strengthen the cellco’s spectrum holdings, filling gaps in its footprint in UPE, UPW and Rajasthan and increasing its 2300MHz holdings in HP and Gujarat to 30MHz. Following the acquisition, Airtel will hold 30MHz of 2300MHz spectrum in a total of 13 circles. The TDN takeover forms part of Airtel’s acquisitive strategy of hoovering up as much spectrum as possible outside of auctions to strengthen its capacity to offer pan-India 4G services. Most recently, the cellco announced earlier this year that it agreed to acquire Norwegian-owned cellco Telenor India – which holds valuable LTE-compatible spectrum in the 1800MHz band. Prior to that, TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Airtel snapped up Augere Wireless in late 2015 for its 2300MHz spectrum, before buying Videocon Telecom Limited’s (VTL’s) 1800MHz airwaves in May 2016, and Aircel’s 2300MHz frequencies later that year.
In a statement from the company, MD and CEO Gopal Vittal was quoted as saying: ‘Airtel’s continued focus on strengthening its 4G capabilities across multiple spectrum bands will be complemented with the BWA spectrum acquisition from Tikona. We believe that combining our capacities in Time division duplex LTE (TD-LTE) and frequency division duplex LTE (FDD-LTE) will further bolster our network, and help us provide unmatched high-speed wireless broadband experience to our customers. We remain committed to our vision of leading India’s digital revolution by offering world-class and affordable telecom services through a robust spectrum portfolio spread across multiple bands.’
The Economic Times writes that Tikona cofounder Rajesh Tiwari has thrown a spanner in the works however, issuing legal notices against both Airtel and TDN for not providing details of how the proceeds of the sale will be distributed amongst shareholders.