It looks like Airtel is going to take Reliance Jio head on for 4G services. The telecom operator has acquired Augere Wireless Broadband which holds 20 Mhz of BWA spectrum in the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh telecom circles. Following the acquisition, Augere will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Airtel subject to regulatory approval.
An earlier Economic Times report had said that the size of the deal was Rs 150 crore.
Earlier this month, Airtel launched commercial operations for its 4G services in 296 cities in India and now offers data packs for customers starting from Rs 25. Airtel acquired 111.6 MHz spectrum during the March spectrum auction: 60.20 MHz in the 900 MHz band, 15.40 MHz in the 1800 MHz band and 35 MHz in the 2100 MHz band. At the time, the telco had said that it would be able to offer pan India 4G services using a combination of FD-LTE technology in the 1800 MHz band and TD-LTE roll out in the 2300 MHz band.
Airtel had claimed to have 0.1 M 4G subscribers in India for the quarter ended December 31, 2013.
Augere Wireless, which won the spectrum in India’s Broadband Wireless Auction 2010, had planned to roll out LTE services under its ZOOSH brand in the second quarter of 2012. However, the company was unable to do so as it was unable to raise fresh funding from domestic and international investors following regulatory uncertainty over the telecom sector, after the Supreme Court’s decision cancelling 2G licences and the TRAI recommendations on fresh auctions and refarming of spectrum.
Augere had also received an approval from India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for Foreign Direct Investment worth Rs 54 crore in October 2011, and had announced a partnership with Ericsson for its 4G/TD- long term evolution (TD-LTE).
In 2013, Airtel also acquired 100% stake in Qualcomm’s broadband wireless entity in India – Wireless Business Services Private Limited. In May 2012, Airtel had made an initial investment of approximately $165 million (Rs 927.39 crore approx) to acquire 49% in Qualcomm’s India entities. It bought 2% more a couple of months ago, thus giving it a majority stake.
Meanwhile, rival Reliance Jio Infocomm claims that it is now present in all 29 states in India and has a direct physical presence in nearly 18,000 cities and towns. Reliance Jio will be rolling out its complete commercial operations by December this year, Mukesh Ambani, RIL chairman, said in his speech to investors in the company’s annual general meeting. Reliance added that its distribution network will include 0.5 million connectivity outlets and 1 million additional recharge outlets at launch.
Idea also has advanced its 4G launch plans by one year to 2016 as it felt the prices of equipment and smartphones which can support the technology have dropped. Idea had acquired 55Mhz of contiguous 5Mhz 1800 Mhz spectrum areas in 10 service areas in 2014 and 2015 for the launch of 4G services on LTE platform. The 10 circles where Idea will be launching 4G services are: Kerala, Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, Punjab and Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and North East.