Bharti Airtel on Thursday said it will buy Telenor India in a further indication of the consolidation underway in telecom as a result of Reliance Jio shaking up the sector with its pricing and deep pockets.

The deal will give Airtel more spectrum and marketshare to take on Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, a serious challenger to its number one position.

Although both Bharti Airtel and Telenor India did not disclose the deal size, analysts’ reports and internal company sources said it could be in the range of ₹1,500-1,800 crore.

“The Airtel-Telenor merger is a strong consolidation move by Airtel to counter not only the unlimited offers given by Reliance Jio but also to silence the hype around the Vodafone-Idea merger to become the largest telecom company,” said Kapil Nayyar of International Business Advisors.

Telenor India’s operations and services will continue as normal until the completion of the transaction, expected by the first quarter of the next financial year (between April and June).

“The decision to exit India has been taken after thorough consideration. It is our view that significant investments are needed to secure Telenor India’s future business, as on a standalone basis it will not give an acceptable level of return,” said Sigve Brekke, Chief Executive Officer of the Telenor Group.

Telenor will receive zero cash and hand over the business on a debt-free basis to Airtel (refinancing the outstanding local debt first). Airtel would also take on the residual future liabilities, including around Norwegian Krone (NOK) 2 billion of spectrum and NOK 5 billion in lease obligations.

As part of the agreement, Airtel will acquire Telenor India’s running operations in seven circles — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh East and West, and Assam.

The deal will enable Airtel to bolster its strong spectrum footprint in the seven circles, with the addition of 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band.

Seamless integration Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said that on completion, the proposed acquisition will undergo seamless integration — both on the customer and the network side.

The proposed acquisition will include transfer of all of Telenor India’s assets and customers, further augmenting Airtel’s overall customer base and network.

According to Telenor, the transaction will not trigger any impairment. As of the fourth quarter of 2016, the remaining value of tangible and intangible assets in Telenor India amounted to NOK 0.3 billion.

The transaction is subject to requisite regulatory approvals.

According to analysts, the acquired circles — except Assam — are populous, low-income markets where Telenor offered cheaper services compared to rivals and managed to acquire 10-12 per cent revenue market share.

“Its (Telenor’s) calendar year 2016 revenue was ₹4,800 crore... Its voice realisation at ₹23 paise/minute and average revenue per user (ARPU) of ₹90 is well below the larger operators,” said Kunal Vora of BNP Paribas.

While Airtel has a 26.9 crore customer base with revenue share of around 33 per cent across India, Telenor has a little more than five crore customers with 8 per cent revenue market share in the seven circles it is present in.

Airtel’s shares closed at ₹366.05 on the BSE on Thursday, up 1.36 per cent from the previous day’s close.

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