India sells spectrum worth $10.6B in two-day auction

India's mega spectrum auction has ended within two days, raising INR778 billion (US$10.6 billion) for the government. As anticipated, service providers just went for spectrum which was up for renewal.

While the telcos acquired spectrum in several bands, the 700MHz spectrum remained unsold because of the high reserve price.

An Airtel statement mentioned that the "the reserve pricing of these bands [700MHz and 3.5GHz] must be addressed on priority in future. This will help the nation to benefit from the digital dividend that will inevitably arise out of this."

Going, going, not gone: The high reserve price left the 700MHz spectrum sitting on the shelf at the end of the day.  (Source: Daniel Bone from Pixabay.)
Going, going, not gone: The high reserve price left the 700MHz spectrum sitting on the shelf at the end of the day.
(Source: Daniel Bone from Pixabay.)

India's second-largest service provider, Bharti Airtel, acquired 48.85MHz of spectrum in 800MHz and 900MHz bands for INR94.570 billion ($1.2 billion); 86.6MHz spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz for INR61720 million ($841.3 million) and 220MHz spectrum in the 2300MHz band for INR30700 million ($418.5 million), says the press release issued by the company.

"Airtel has now secured pan-India footprint of sub GHz spectrum that will help improve its deep indoor and in building coverage in every urban town," says the company statement.

On the other hand, Vodafone Idea acquired spectrum in five circles, which it says will help it to "enhance our 4G coverage and capacity, enabling superior digital experience for our customers."

The company didn't mention the circles in which it has acquired spectrum. The service provider already had one of the highest quantum of spectrum in the country.

Deeper pockets

India's largest service provider, Reliance Jio, has spent the most.

The company spent INR571.226 billion ($7.7 billion) in acquiring 488.35MHz spectrum in 800Mhz, 1800MHz and 2300Mhz frequency bands.

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It said that it has increased its total spectrum footprint by 55% to 1,717MHz and it now has the highest amount of sub-GHz spectrum with 2x10 MHz contiguous spectrum in most circles.

"The acquired spectrum can be utilised for transition to 5G services at the appropriate time, where Jio has developed its own 5G stack," says the Jio press release.

As the auction has generated significantly less than expected, it will have implications for the upcoming 5G spectrum auction.

There is a real possibility the government will look to rationalize the reserve price, as a significant amount of spectrum remained unsold in this auction.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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