Consolidation continues as Bharti Airtel buys Indian 4G network for $244m

Bharti Airtel has continued the rapid consolidation in the Indian mobile business by buying the 4G business of Tikona Digital Networks for the equivalent of $244 million.

The deal will give Airtel extra spectrum in the 2,300GHz band in five service districts, or circles, as well as access to 350 base stations.

Gopal Vittal, CEO of Airtel’s operations in India and South Asia, said: “Airtel’s continued focus on strengthening its 4G capabilities across multiple spectrum bands will be complemented with the BWA [broadband wireless access] spectrum acquisition from Tikona.”

Tikona began as a Wifi-only operation but bid in 3G and 4G auctions. Axiata dropped a proposal to buy the company in 2012. The company raised $45 million in 2014, largely from existing investors, including the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation – which put in $25 million – plus Goldman Sachs, Oak Investment, Everstone Capital and L&T Infrastructure.

Following the purchase, Airtel will have 2,300MHz spectrum in all parts of India, and plans to launch LTE services on the spectrum bought from Tikona in the five new areas, as soon as the deal is completed.

Airtel is also spending an estimated $300 million on buying Telenor’s business in India.

Last week Vodafone India and Idea Cellular said they were merging, to create India’s largest mobile operator, worth an estimated $23 billion.