Early in the year, the country saw the biggest auction of spectrum when the government garnered Rs 1.10 lakh crore (USD 17.6 billion) to licence 380.75 MHz of airwaves in the 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz and 800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands across 17 out of 22 telecom circles.
The telecom service providers that participated in the marathon auctioning were: Idea Cellular, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Reliance Communications, Reliance Jio, Tata Teleservices, Telenor and Aircel. While the auction was welcomed, since availability of spectrum was a major cause for concern, the high bid prices proved to be a dampener.
Call drop issues
But the auction over two straight years could not stop the menace of call drops. The problem took such a shape that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi voiced his concern. Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad even said he did not want to be remembered as 'call drop minister'.
The watchdog, on its part, also intervened and in mid-October directed mobile phone operators to compensate subscribers on call drops from Jan 1 at the rate of Re 1 for each failure - a decision that left the industry upset with legal help kept as an option.
There was also a related problem. Across the country, many telecom towers became inoperational as citizens started complaining that radiation emanating from it are health hazardous. This took its toll on telephone connectivity.
4G launches in India
India also tried hard to catch up with the world in telecom technology. Bharti Airtel launched its fourth generation (4G) communications services in 296 towns across the country. Britain-based Vodafone launched the same on Dec 14, while Reliance Jio was expected to do so anytime.
Another trending activity was tower sale by various operators. Industrialist Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications signed a non-binding pact with the US-based Tillman Global Holdings and TPG Asia to sell its nationwide tower assets and related infrastructure for an undisclosed amount. Industry sources valued it at Rs 22,000 crore (nearly USD 3.4 billion).
State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd also got Cabinet approval to hive off its tower assets into a separate company. BSNL's chairman-cum-managing director Anupam Shrivastava said that the valuation of it could be in the region of Rs 20,000 crore (USD 3 billion).
Among the big ticket mergers and acquisitions was Reliance Communications' accord to acquire the Indian telecom business of Russia's Sistema, which operates under the 'MTS' brand, in a unique stock-cum-spectrum-fee payment deal.
The government also allowed spectrum trading in India to help telecom companies to buy and sell unused radio waves from each other, without waiting for the next round of auction. Also, spectrum sharing was allowed by the government, which is expected to improve the quality of telecom services.
Highlights of telecom industry in 2015:
Biggest spectrum auction over 19 days mopped up USD 17.6 billion
Government allowed spectrum trading and sharing
Watchdog directs operators to compensate for call drops from Jan 1, 2016
Tariff on national roaming sharply cut
Service providers gear up for 4G launch
Global leader Foxconn to invest USD5 billion to make devices in India
Debate starts over net neutrality with draft note awaiting government nod
Mobile number portability made applicable pan-India