Bharti Airtel has completed the merger of Augere Wireless Broadband’s wireless business unit with it, the company informed the stock exchanges today. The size of the deal was not disclosed. Augere holds around 20 MHz of spectrum under the 2300 MHz band in circles including Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Its spectrum holding will now be transferred to Airtel, while Augere will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Airtel. Note that deal was initially announced in August 2015.
Augere is a Netherland-based telecom company that took part in India’s Broadband Wireless Auction in 2010. At that time, the company was planning to roll out commercial 4G services under its ZOOSH brand in 14 cities in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The company, however, cancelled the plans in 2012 after it was unable to raise funds from investors and due to regulatory uncertainty in the Indian telecom sector.
Competition in 4G
Airtel currently has 4G services in 21 circles out of the 22 circles it operates in. In the past three months, the company stuck to aggressive 4G rollout due to competitive pressure in the industry. New entrant Reliance Jio has 4G spectrum in all 22 circles and already has over 72 million customers on its 4G-only network. While Airtel has 37.69 million 3G/4G customers. Jio also has a 4G spectrum sharing deal with RCOM under 800 MHz in 22 circles. Rival operator Idea is currently in expansion mode to deploy 4G in 17 circles, whole Vodafone already has 4G in 17 circles out of the 22 circles it operates in.
Interestingly, Bharti Airtel had earlier signed a network deployment deal with Nokia Networks in October 2016 to install and maintain 4G services in 3 circles in India. Nokia’s networking arm already serves 4G services for Bharti Airtel in 6 circles in India since September 2015. The deal came just weeks after Airtel acquired 173.8 MHz of spectrum across the three different bands for a total amount of Rs 14,244 crore during 2016 auctions.
Merger talks with Telenor
Last month, it was reported that Telenor was in talks with Airtel for a potential acquisition deal worth $350 million. Airtel was looking to acquire half of Telenor India’s liabilities, while Telenor is expected to hold the remaining half. However, both companies denied providing more details on the potential deal.