Telenor India

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Telenor India
Formerly called
Telewings Communications Services Pvt Ltd
Industry Telecommunications
Fate To be Acquired by Bharti Airtel
Predecessor Unitech Wireless Limited
Founded 2009 (2009)
Headquarters Connaught Place, New Delhi, India[1]
Area served
Key people
Sharad Mehrotra (CEO)[2]
Services Mobile telephony
Wireless internet
Owner Bharti Airtel
Number of employees
4,010[2] (Q4 2016)

Telenor (India) Communications Private Limited, formerly known as Uninor, is an Indian mobile network operator. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor Group. In February 2017, Telenor Group announced merging the India business with Bharti Airtel post necessary regulatory approvals.


Foundation and growth[edit]

Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas launching Uninor in 2009

The company Unitech Wireless Limited, a subsidiary of Unitech Group, was incorporated in 2008.[3] The same year, the company was awarded wireless services licences for all 22 telecom circles. Subsequently, Unitech Group and Telenor Group agreed to enter a joint venture where Telenor would inject fresh equity investments of 61.35 billion into Unitech Wireless to take a majority stake in the company.[4] This was operating capital invested directly in Unitech Wireless by Telenor Group. Telenor Group conducted these investments in four tranches, subsequent to approvals from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) took 67.25% ownership of Unitech Wireless.[5] In September 2009, Unitech Wireless announced its brand name as Uninor.[6]

Uninor launched in eight telecom circles on 3 December 2009,[7] after completing one of the world’s largest GSM Greenfield launches which was also one of the fastest telecom roll-outs ever in India. According to Uninor, the brand was built around an ambition to serve the young, aspiring India. Six months later, 5 additional circles were launched including metropolitan areas like Mumbai and Kolkata.[citation needed]

Uninor has facilitated rapid scaling of the company through a lean operation model, where a large share of the network infrastructure is outsourced to business partners. Uninor’s modern equipment has enabled it to introduce targeted offerings and serve a large audience with limited spectrum.[citation needed] Uninor introduced dynamic pricing, a concept that gives consumers discounts that are based on current network traffic at an individual site and change with location and time. Over the summer of 2010, the company further simplified its strategy with a focus on three core areas – excellence in mass market distribution, basic services and cost efficient operations. Changes were also made to the product mix and marketing– making them simpler, more direct and clearly positioning Uninor as an affordable mass market service.[citation needed]

Uninor grew from 0 to 45.6 million customers (as of Q2 2012) within less than two years, and emerged as the most successful of the new entrants that obtained licenses in 2008. The company had more than double the subscribers of all of the other entrants combined.

License cancellations[edit]

On 2 February 2012, the Supreme Court of India cancelled 122 licenses of 22 mobile operators, including Uninor. In July 2012, Uninor decided to gradually scale down operations in 4 telecom circles - Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa and Tamil Nadu. The objective was to strengthen the focus on the top performing circles ahead of the 2012 spectrum auction.[8] Uninor eventually shut down services in those 4 circles. In the 2012 auction, Uninor won back licences and spectrum in 6 telecom circles - Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) & Uttarakhand, Bihar & Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra & Goa and Andhra Pradesh & Telangana.[9] Uninor was about shut down services in Mumbai, Kolkata and West Bengal circles on 18 January 2013 but the deadline was extended to 16 February 2013. The Supreme Court on 15 February 2013 ordered companies that did not win spectrum in the November 2012 auction to immediately discontinue operations.[10]

Uninor shut down services in Kolkata, Mumbai and West Bengal after midnight on 16 February 2013.[11][12] According to a Uninor spokesperson, almost all Uninor subscribers in Kolkata and West Bengal had ported out by 16 February 2013, as Uninor had informed them to do so in December 2012. The spokesperson further claimed that the "sudden apex court order did not give us [Uninor] the opportunity to inform Mumbai customers in advance". At the time of service shutting, Uninor still had 1.8 million subscribers in Mumbai.[13]

Unitech exit and re-branding[edit]

Following the cancellation of Uninor's licences, Unitech and Telenor were involved in a dispute over control of Uninor. In October 2012, the two companies signed an agreement under which Unitech transferred Uninor assets to Telenor and exited the joint venture. Telenor subsequently formed Telewings Communications Services Private Limited, a joint venture with Lakshdeep Investments & Finance. Telenor held a 49% stake in Telewings. In December 2013, Telenor raised its stake in the company to 74%.[14]

In 2014, the Telenor Group raised its stake to control 100% of Telewings, and the company became a wholly owned subsidiary. On 23 September 2015, Uninor announced it has re-branded itself as Telenor India.[15][16] The Telenor Group spent 100 crore on the re-branding exercise. The logotype, font and the visual expression follows that of the Telenor Group. Telenor India CEO Vivek Sood also stated that the company had broke even within four years of operations.[16] Telewings Communications Services Private Limited was subsequently renamed Telenor (India) Communications Private Limited.[17]

Sale to Bharti Airtel[edit]

On 2 January 2017, The Economic Times reported that Bharti Airtel had entered into discussions with Telenor India to acquire the latter.[18][19] On 23 February 2017, Airtel announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement with Telenor South Asia Investments Pte Ltd to acquire Telenor (India) Communications Pvt. Ltd. As part of the deal, Airtel will acquire Telenor India's assets and customers in all seven telecom circles that the latter operates in - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) and Assam. Airtel will gain 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band from the Telenor acquisition.[20][21]


Radio frequency summary[edit]

As of February 2017, Telenor India owns spectrum in 1800 MHz band, across 7 telecom circle areas in the country.[22]

Telecom circle coverage GSM / FD-LTE
Band 3
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Yes
Assam Yes
Bihar and Jharkhand Yes
Uttar Pradesh (East) Yes
Gujarat Yes
Maharashtra & Goa Yes
Uttar Pradesh (West) Yes

4G launch[edit]

In February 2016, Telenor launched 4G services in the city of Varanasi.[23] The company deployed narrow-band LTE on 1800 MHz spectrum. The network is the world's first commercial lean GSM network. Lean GSM is a technology developed by Huawei that compresses data to improve the efficiency of spectrum. Telenor refarmed 1.4 MHz of its 2G voice spectrum for data, maintaining the same voice quality while utilizing less spectrum.[24][25][26]

Discontinued operations[edit]

Telenor discontinued its operations in seven telecom circle areas:

  • West Bengal (shut down services after midnight on 16 February 2013)
  • Karnataka (gradually scaled down from July 2012)
  • Kerala (gradually scaled down from July 2012)
  • Kolkata (shut down services after midnight on 16 February 2013)
  • Orissa (gradually scaled down from July 2012)
  • Tamil Nadu (gradually scaled down from July 2012)
  • Mumbai (shut down services after midnight on 16 February 2013)[27]

Subscriber base[edit]

Telenor India had a subscriber base of 50,509,087 in total across India, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as of March 2017,[28].


2G license controversy[edit]

Unitech Wireless was one of the would-be telecom companies that received 2G licenses in 2008. The method chosen by the authorities to allocate these licenses has later been subject to controversy as part of the 2G license allocation case. Licenses were awarded through a first come-first served process, where eight companies belonging to the Unitech Group were awarded telecom licenses. The licenses obtained by the telecom arm of the Unitech Group were the basis for Telenor Group’s investment into the joint venture. Unitech Wireless companies were later amalgamated into one company, Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt. Ltd. The Telenor Group invested INR 61.35 billion through new shares to hold 67.25% majority stake in the company. This investment has been used as working capital for the joint venture. Telenor’s investments in Unitech Wireless have been cleared at each stage by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).[citation needed] Due to the controversy of the 2G license allocation case, Unitech Ltd.'s Managing Director Sanjay Chandra together with the company Unitech Wireless, have come under investigation by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). These investigations are connected to Unitech Wireless at a point when the company was fully owned by the Unitech Group. Subsequently, Unitech’s Managing Director and the erstwhile chairman of the board of Unitech Wireless, Sanjay Chandra, together with individuals from other telecom operators were taken into custody in early 2011. He was released on bail, while the case is pending in Indian courts.[29]

In February 2012, a special court consisting of two Supreme Court justices issued a judgment in a public interest litigation (PIL) case connected to the 2008 allocation of telecom circle licenses. The judgment directs the Indian telecom regulator, TRAI, to recommend a process for re-allocation of the 121 licenses that were issued in 2008. The court ordered this process to be concluded within four months, i.e. by June 2012. This deadline was later extended to September 2012, then to January 2013. Uninor services and operations continues uninterrupted.[citation needed]

Telenor Group on 21 February 2012 also announced its intention to form a new entity in India with which its Indian operations will be taken forward. This new entity will serve as the platform to approach the upcoming auctions for fresh licenses as mandated by the Supreme Court. The new entity will also seek requisite approvals from the FIPB to allow Telenor Group to take up 74% ownership.[30]

Uninor on 1 August 2012 said it would auction all of its telecom business before it becomes non-operational on 7 September, the deadline set by the apex court for winding up of operations of all the firms whose licences had been cancelled. The move has been strongly opposed by the firm's minority stakeholder Unitech and it has threatened to initiate legal action, if Uninor goes ahead with the auction.[31] Telenor in August 2012 said it would buy out Unitech Wireless for "4,190 crore", if there are no bidders for the Indian mobile phone operator's assets.[32] A settlement between the parties was made in October 2012 with Unitech Ltd. committing to dipose of all its shares in Unitech Wireless,[33] which lead to the rebranding of the company as "Telenor India" in September 2015.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Telenor India has won many recognitions and industry awards for its business practices and sustainability programs:


  • Telenor Suraksha gets Efma award in the 'Best Disruptive Product or Service' category
  • Telenor India's Free Life Insurance & Rebranding Campaign, Lean GSM and Project Sampark get 2016 Voice & Data Telecom Leadership Conference & Award


  • Telenor's Project Sampark has been recognised with the Aegis Graham Bell Awards 2015
  • Exchange4media IPRCC Awards 2015 under the CSR & Not-for-profit
  • Telenor India five times winner of the Greentech Safety Award-August 2015
  • Project Sampark wins award for excellence in CSR August 2015
  • Greentech CSR Gold Award
  • British Safety Council ISA
  • Greentech Env. Gold Award
  • BSC Global Sector Award
  • Greentech Platinum Safety Award


  • CII Star Award for Safety Management
  • Greentech Gold Award for outstanding Achievement in Safety Management
  • Greentech Environment Excellence Gold Award
  • British Safety Council International Safety Award with Distinction
  • British Safety Council Global Sector Award


  • Greentech Gold Award for outstanding Achievement in Safety Management
  • Greentech Environmental Excellence Gold Award
  • British Safety Council International Safety award with Merit


  • Greentech Gold Award for outstanding Achievement in Safety Management
  • Greentech Environmental Excellence Gold Award
  • British Safety Council International Safety Award with Merit


  • Greentech Gold Award for outstanding Achievement in Safety Management 

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Telenor Group - Uninor, India". Telenor Group. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Vodafone emerges as frontrunner for buying out Telenor's operations in India". The Economic Times. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  5. ^ - Approval of Unitech Wireless’ application to increase foreign shareholding announced. 16 October 2009.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Telenor hangs up on India, to sell business to Airtel - The Economic Times". The Economic Times. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  8. ^ "Uninor to scale down in four circles, step up in the East". 25 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Biswas, Rudradeep. (2012-11-26) TT Special: 2G Map of India. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
  10. ^ Uninor to close down its services in Mumbai Today. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
  11. ^ Uninor shuts shop in Mumbai, 18 lakh users stranded, remaining circles to continue operations - The Times of India. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
  12. ^ "Uninor shuts shop in Mumbai, 18 lakh customers hit". Firstpost. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  13. ^ Uninor shuts network in Kolkata, West Bengal, Mumbai circles | Business Line. Retrieved on 28 July 2013.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Uninor Changes Name to Telenor, Expands Call Drop Refund Plan | Sep 23, 2015
  16. ^ a b "Uninor re-brands itself as Telenor in India". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 September 2015. 
  17. ^ "Terms and Conditions". Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  18. ^ "Airtel in advanced talks with Telenor to buy its India business". The Economic Times. Retrieved 13 February 2017. 
  19. ^ "Bharti Airtel in talks with Telenor to buy India business for $350 million: ET Now". The Economic Times. Retrieved 13 February 2017. 
  20. ^ Raj, Amrit (23 February 2017). "Airtel buys Telenor India amid battle with Reliance Jio". Mint. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "Telenor exits India as Airtel acquires local arm to fight Reliance Jio". Hindustan Times. 23 February 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
  22. ^ Pan India 2015 spectrum holding data sheet (updated), Telecom Talk, retrieved 30 November 2015 
  23. ^ "Norwegian telecom firm Telenor to launch 4G in India within 6 months". Firstpost. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  24. ^ Reporter, B. S. "Telenor to roll out 4G in 55 cities using lean GSM tech". Business Standard. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  25. ^ "Telenor narrow-band LTE goes live in Varanasi city, offers ultra-affordable data packs | ET Telecom". Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  26. ^ "Telenor India and Huawei Commercialize World’s First Lean GSM Solution-huawei press center". huawei. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  27. ^ "Uninor shuts ops in Mumbai after SC order". Business Standard. 18 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  28. ^ "Highlights of Telecom Subscription Data as on 31st July, 2016" (PDF). TRAI. TRAI. 
  29. ^ 2G scam: Revoke Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra's bail, say legal experts : North, News - India Today. (2013-02-13). Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
  30. ^ Telenor Group seeks indemnities from Unitech Limited as it gets ready for a new future in India - Telenor Group. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
  31. ^ "Uninor plans to auction telecom business; Unitech opposes". 1 August 2012. 
  32. ^ "Telenor to buy Unitech Wireless for Rs 4,190 crore if no bidders found". 2 August 2012. 
  33. ^ Unitech reaches settlement on Uninor JV with Telenor - Economic Times. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.

External links[edit]