There has been a pretty serious transformation at Idea Cellular over the last decade. Not very long ago, it was still touted as a marginal player with a limited presence across just eight of out 23 circles, and an subscriber base of 5.7 million when those like Bharti, Hutch, which is now Vodafone, and Reliance had over 10 million subscribers each around the time. It was a company with an uncertain future and aggression was a term never associated with it.
Today, Idea with 167 million subscribers, stands third in the pecking order with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone at 237 million and 189 million respectively. If the growth has been impressive, there is good reason. In March this year, it coughed up a massive ₹30,300 crore at the spectrum auction, making it the highest bidder.
This was for nine key circles among which were Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, where the company had to renew its licenses or face a very uncomfortable situation of inadequate spectrum. That development was followed up, as recently as late November, where Idea acquired 5 Mhz spectrum each in two circles, Uttar Pradesh (West) and Gujarat, from the tr