Spectrum is the foundation of the mobile business, a fact made abundantly clear by the situation faced by Telenor India, which is a regional–not nation-wide–provider, owns limited spectrum for its 2G network and slim to non-existent chances for acquiring new fourth generation or even third generation network spectrum to create a national footprint.

As a result, Telenor might be in a rather unfortunate position: possibly forced to exit the market, but owning few assets the other logical buyers (mobile service providers) will want.

“4G is changing the rules of the game – it is leading to disruption, which is accelerating consolidation,” says Hemant Joshi, Deloitte Haskins & Sells partner. β€œIt will become increasingly difficult for regional players to survive until they become a pan-India player.”

Telenor India, which was adding over a million subscribers a month in mid-2014, added just 250,000 subscribers in February of 2016, compared with 2.9 million for Airtel, over two million for Vodafone and 1.5 million for Idea.