Norway's Telenor on Wednesday emerged as the biggest buyer of mobile telecom airwaves in the 2G spectrum auction by winning back its licences in six of India's most populous states, viz. Uttar Pradesh East, Uttar Pradesh West, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Telenor agreed to pay 4.2 billion crowns for the six licences, which were among the 122 2G licences that had been cancelled by the Supreme Court. The Norwegian operators won back the lost licences than markets had been expecting.
After winning back the licences, Telenor CEO John Fredrik Baksaas said, "We will stay present in areas that make up over half of India's population and continue to have 34 million customers."
Before the auction, Telenor rolled back operations to nine telecom circles and warned that it would quit India altogether if the auction price rocketed too high. India offers the world's second largest mobile market but many investors are reluctant to make huge investments here because margins are low. Many had argued that Telenor would be able to pocket higher returns elsewhere.
In the recently held auction, Idea Cellular paid Rs 20.3 billion for 30 blocks; Videocon paid Rs 21.3 billion for 22 blocks; Vodafone paid Rs 12.95 billion for 23 blocks; and Bharti Airtel spent just Rs 87 million to win licence in just one block.
The spectrum auction was almost a flop show because it could raise only Rs 94.1 billion overall - less than 25 per cent of the government's target of Rs 400 billion.