Tata name finally disappears from an Indian mobile market that has essentially become a three-horse race

Bharti Airtel has finally completed the acquisition of Tata Teleservices but the deal has little impact on its position in the Indian mobile market.

"We are pleased to announce that the schemes of arrangement have become effective today, i.e. 1 July 2019," Bharti said in a short statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

"Consequently, all customers, assets, spectrum and agreed liabilities of the consumer mobile businesses of TTSL [Tata Teleservices] and TTML [Tata Teleservices Maharashtra] now stand merged with Airtel."

Bharti announced its intention to take over the Tatas’ ailing mobile operations, on a cash-free and debt-free basis more than 18 months ago and began transferring Tata customers to its own network before the end of 2017, but the regulatory approvals to complete the deal took some time to secure.

According to the latest figures from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), published last week, Tata’s market share had shrunk to just 1.1% by the end of April, thus the addition of its business will provide Bharti – once India’s largest mobile operator but now relegated to second place following the tie-up between Vodafone and Idea Cellular – with just a small market share boost. Bharti and Tata together claimed 28.8% of India’s 1.16 billion customers, while Vodafone Idea had 33.8%.

However, the deal also gives Bharti access to additional spectrum as well as other assets.

The completion of the deal removes yet another name from India’s mobile industry, which was until recently home to myriad service providers battling out for customers in a market in which ARPUs are low and volume means everything.

The market is now effectively split between three private players: the top two plus Reliance Jio Infocomm, which was hot on Bharti’s heels with a share of just over 27% at end-April. Given the pace at which it is reportedly adding signing up customers, Bharti may already have lost second place, irrespective of the Tata deal.

Talk of a government plan to revive the fortunes of state-owned players BSNL and MTNL continues; the former is the country’s fourth-largest operator with a 10% share.