Auction makes Airtel pan-India 4G player

airtel-4g-lteWith the closure of the spectrum auction on Thursday, Bharti Airtel emerged as the next pan-India 4G player in the Indian market. Bharti Airtel won spectrum in 15 circles in the 1800 MHz band. The Sunil Mittal led company will have to cough up Rs 18,530 crore to acquire the 115 MHz spectrum it won in this auction. With this 15 circles, the company becomes a pan-India 4G player as it already has 4G spectrum in another 8 circles.

Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Jio is the other pan-India player to have 4G license in the country. It had bagged 4G license and spectrum during the 2010 spectrum auction.

Though Bharti Airtel has spectrum to launch 4G services in eight circles, with the UASL policy coming in to force which allows any UAS license holder to launch any service using any technology, the company is all set to launch 4G services in all 22 circles. The Company plans to roll-out high speed 4G networks in 14 circles using FD-LTE technology in the 1800 MHz band and with TD-LTE technology in the 2300 MHz band in remaining eight circles, giving it a pan-India 4G footprint.

In the 2010 spectrum auction the company had bagged license to launch 4G services in four circles – Punjab, Maharashtra, Kolkata and Karnataka. In 2013 it acquired 100% stake in the Indian arm of Qualcomm, the US based chip maker. The company, Wireless Business Services (WBSPL), had got 4G spectrum in four circles which it had acquired during the 2010 auction. Bharti Airtel had paid around Rs 1400 crore to completely acquire the stakes of WBSPL. Of these eight circles, (4 of airtel and 4 of WBSPL), Airtel had launched 4G services in Bangalore, Pune, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula.

Though the company had bagged the 4G licenses 3 years back, a full fledged 4G roll out is yet to happen by it. Analysts say the reason is Airtel has invested huge amount of money in getting the 3G and 4G licenses but 3G services did not take off in the country as it was anticipated. So the company preferred to slow down its network expansion plans for both 3G as well 4G. One more reason was the policy uncertainty in the Indian telecom space. After the NTP 2012 came into force the picture got clearer and with UASL granted, the company waited till this spectrum auction.

“The auction has provided much needed long term certainty and clarity around spectrum and other regulatory policies,” says Gopal Vittal, Jt. MD & CEO – India, Bharti Airtel.

With the spectrum auction is over and Bharti Airtel could launch the 4G services using both the spectrum bands -1800 MHz and 2300 MHz- India could expect a more aggressive service roll out by the company.

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