Indian mobile operator Bharti Airtel has secured the first of the required regulatory approvals to acquire Tata Teleservices' consumer mobile business.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has given its consent to the proposed share-swap merger, Livemintreported.
The proposed acquisition still requires the approval of the Securities Exchange Board of India, the National Company Law Tribunal, the telecoms ministry and the stock exchanges.
Airtel first announced plans to acquire Tata Teleservices' consumer mobile business in October, as part of the wave of consolidation sweeping India's telecoms sector.
With the acquisition Airtel will acquire around 40 million customers in 19 of India's 22 telecoms circles, as well as 178.5Mbps worth of spectrum across the 800-MHz, 1800-MHz and 2100-MHz bands.
While the acquisition is being conducted on a debt and cash free basis, Airtel has agreed to assume part of Tata Group's unpaid spectrum acquisition costs.
Meanwhile fellow Indian operators Reliance Communications and Aircel, which had been planning their own merger before being forced to call off the deal due in part to regulatory uncertainty, have both recently reportedly defaulted on debt repayments, the Financial Timesreported.
The operators had been relying on the proposed merger to tackle their respective debt burdens, and when the deal collapsed they were required to develop standalone business plans for servicing their debts. If the situation continues, Aircel may be required to shut down operations, the report states.
RCom has meanwhile been pursuing divestitures and cost cutting to deal with its debts, and recently decided to stop offering 2G voice services in eight telecoms circles as part of these efforts.