India's top two telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India are now eyeing debt-ridden Reliance Communications' spectrum in the 2100 MHz band in 13 circles that will expire in 2030. These circles are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Northeast, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Orissa, West Bengal and Rajasthan.
Both the telcos are looking to enhance their spectrum holdings in these circles some of which are key markets in terms of growth and potential, according to a report in the Economic Times, which also added that these telcos along with Idea Cellular may also seek RCom’s spectrum in the 900 MHz band in Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Spectrum in both these bands can be used for 4G services in India, even though they are currently being used to offer 3G services.
"There is no immediate desperation to buy RCom’s spectrum in 900 or 2100 MHz bands, but if the valuations are good and there is a business case, Vodafone could explore select acquisitions,” a person was quoted as saying by the publication.
Reliance Jio, the Mukesh Ambani-led 4G entrant, would also look at buying RCom’s 4G spectrum in seven key markets and in the 850 MHz band, which the latter has recently received after the successful merger with Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL). However, Jio could only buy these airwaves if the Indian government gives approval to the Trai’s recent recommendation for easing spectrum caps.
RCom and Jio had earlier signed spectrum trading and sharing pacts in early 2016 to leverage each other’s 850 MHz airwaves to launch 4G services across India.
Under its SDR plan, RCom is looking to repay up to Rs 17,000 crore via monetisation of assets. Alongside that, the company is also planning to repay another Rs 10,000 via the sale, development of real estate space.
In addition, RCom is also looking to sell a few of assets to Reliance Industries backed Reliance Jio. Apart from Jio, few more companies such as ATC, Indus Towers, Bharti Airtel, Sistema JSFC, Brookfield Infrastructure, TPG Capital, I-Squared Capital, Tillman Global Holdings, Gateway Partners, and I-Squared Capital are looking to purchase the RCom's tower unit.
RCom's lenders are selling the spectrum to try and recover part of their Rs 45,000 crore dues.