Telecom Ministry has reportedly cleared the Rs 3,500-crore 4G spectrum trading deal between India's leading telecom carrier Bharti Airtel and Aircel. Wire service PTI reported that the deal was cleared on July 4 by Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was at the helm of affairs then of the Telecom Ministry. However, Bharti Airtel has declined to comment when contacted by PTI.
Airtel, which is leading the 4G market in the country, had entered into an agreement with Aircel to acquire rights to use 4G spectrum of the latter in eight telecom circles-Tamil Nadu, including Chennai, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Assam, the North-East, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha -for Rs 3,500 crore
The report said that the Sunil Mittal-led company was earlier asked to surrender 1.2 Mhz spectrum in Odisha circle for approval as it breached the spectrum cap limit after taking into account the Aircel holdings.
Airtel has subsequently surrendered 1.2 Mhz spectrum in 1800 Mhz before the deal was cleared, according to the source, cited by the news report. As per the spectrum trading rule, no player can hold more than 25 per cent of the total spectrum allocated in a particular service area.
The deal will help Aircel pare debt and may fulfil a condition for its merger with Reliance Communications, according to several media reports. Reports said that Aircel needed to reduce some Rs 4,000 crore of its Rs 18,000-crore debt.
Earlier this week Business Standard reported that Bharti Airtel will extend its 4G footprint to 19 circles in next 3-4 months with the launch of services in six circles using spectrum acquired from Videocon Telecommunications. Bharti Airtel, which was the first operator to launch 4G network in Kolkata in April 2012, currently offers 4G LTE services using 1800 MHz and 2300 Mhz bands in over 350 cities in India. It holds 4G spectrum in 15 circles, as compared to Idea Cellular's holdings in 10 circles and Vodafone India's 4G holdings in 5 circles.