Vodafone & Idea merger given thumbs up by India antitrust watchdog

India’s antitrust regulator has finally approved the merger between Vodafone and Idea Cellular, to create the largest telco player in the market.

Neither company has released any comments as of yet, though according to The Economic Times, both have received letters from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) giving unconditional approval. The $23 billion deal is set to create the largest telco in the market, surpassing current incumbent Bharti Airtel which has been facing challenges of its own over the last couple of months.

The merger was initially proposed in March, as a result of Jio’s offers and the chaos which ensued. The emergence of Jio certainly altered the status quo of the country, with Bharti Airtel offering deals which it probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and two players merging into one, which they probably wouldn’t have either.

Perhaps one consideration which may have delayed the CCI decision is removal of competition in the market. Indian regulators and legislators will have to tread very carefully over the next couple of months, as while consumers will be delighted with new offers from Jio, the last six months have already seen Telus exit the market and this merger. Upstarts to shake up the industry are all well and good, but if there is a risk of it going too far it will need to be carefully managed.

And while the first six months of freebies from Jio caused a huge amount of pain, the next few months could be just as bad. The new JioPhone could bring a huge number of new customers to the giant, as it has the potentially to be even more disruptive than the first offer. Essentially, customers will receive voice calls and unlimited data for £3 a month, while receiving a free feature phone in exchange for a $25 deposit. This handset can be exchanged after a three-year period for no charge.

Rumours floating down the halls say that Bharti Airtel is on the verge of reporting monthly numbers which show a huge cut in profits, but some might hope that a new, merged organization can provide some sort of resistance to the growing Jio tsunami. This is a market which can’t really afford to lose any more players.

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