Bharti Airtel’s decision to buy Telenor’s India operations is the third consolidation this year after Vodafone-Idea and Reliance Communications-Aircel-Tata teleservices talks for a merger. Bharti Airtel needs to counter Jio’s freebies and the prospect of the biggest telecom company Vodafone-Idea merger will create.

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel will acquire the business of Telenor India for an undisclosed sum in all seven circles where it holds spectrum, which are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP (East), UP (West) and Assam. All these regions are now crucial for telecom companies as they are not only densely populated but also hold vast potential as mobile services and infrastructure spread in the under-served interiors of India at a rapid pace.

Airtel on Thursday said it had “entered into a definitive agreement with Telenor South Asia Investments Pvt Ltd to acquire Telenor (India) Communications Private Limited.”

Airtel is India’s largest wireless operator with over 269 million subscribers and a revenue market share of over 33 per cent. As the new owner, Airtel will take over Telenor India’s spectrum, licences and operations, including its employees and customer base of 44 million.

Telenor will give Bharti Airtel an additional 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band. This will further augment Airtel’s overall customer base and network. Bharti Airtel is rolling out its 4G services in 1,800 MHz band and 2,100 Mhz band. Telenor’s 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band will certainly power Bharti Airtel’s 4G services.

“On completion, the proposed acquisition will undergo seamless integration, both on the customer as well as the network side, and further strengthen our market position in several key circles. The customers of Telenor India will now be able to enjoy …a range of Airtel’s world-class products and services,” Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and CEO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said.

Telenor India’s operations and services will continue as normal, until the transaction is completed, the company said.