Airtel to buy Tikona Digital's 4G business

27 Mar 2017

India's Bharti Airtel has arranged to acquire ISP Tikona Digital's 4G business for around 16 billion rupees ($244.6 million), to help shore up its ability to compete against Reliance Jio and the combined Vodafone-Idea Cellular.

The company will acquire 4G assets including 20 MHz of 2300-MHz 4G spectrum in five of India's 22 telecoms circles, as well as 350 existing cell sites in these circles, the Economic Timesreported.

The five circles are Uttar Pradesh East and Uttar Pradesh West, as well as Rajasthan, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

The merger is expected to fill gaps in Airtel's spectrum holdings, particularly in the former three circles, and allow the operator to secure a pan-India footprint in the 2300-MHz band.

This could prove crucial to Airtel's efforts to stay competitive against disruptive pan-India 4G operator Reliance Jio Infocomm, as well as the entity that will be created with the planned $23 billion merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular – which is expected to overtake Airtel to become the market's largest operator by subscribers.

But Airtel could have some hurdles to clear in order to close the deal. Tikona Digital co-founder Rajesh Tiwari is objecting to the deal on the grounds that the companies have not provided details of how the proceeds will be split among shareholders, the report states.

Tiwari, which owns just over 1% of the ISP, has filed a legal notice seeking to block the deal until he is provided this information.

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