Indian telcos begin transitioning customers under roaming agreement, ahead of receipt of regulatory approvals for takeover

Tata Teleservices’ mobile customers in three of India’s telecom circles started moving to the Bharti Airtel network this week as the two companies work towards securing the required approvals for Bharti’s takeover of Tata.

The telcos are using an intra-circle roaming arrangement to begin moving customers, Bharti announced on Wednesday.

Initially, the transition affects customers in Uttar Pradesh (West), Bihar and West Bengal, but the move will extend to all of Tata’s consumer mobile customers in the coming weeks, it said.

Bharti announced a cash-free and debt-free deal to acquire Tata Teleservices’ consumer mobile operations last month.

The deal will see Bharti take over Tata’s customer base across 19 telecoms circles: Tata Teleservices operates in 17 circles and Tata Teleservices Maharashtra in two.

Tata had a total of 44.9 million mobile customers at the end of September, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). It’s market share stood at 3.8%.

"We are delighted to welcome the Tata mobile customers on to India’s largest network and look forward to serving them with our world-class services," Bharti Airtel’s chief operating officer Ajai Puri said, in a statement.

Bharti remains India’s biggest mobile operator with 282 million customers, or 23.8% of the market.

"The transition will be fully seamless and nothing changes for Tata customers, who will continue on the same SIM and plan," Puri said.

Last week The Competition Commission of India approved the takeover, but the telcos still require other clearances before they can complete the deal, including the go-ahead from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).