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Idea, Airtel, Vodafone Splash Out on Indian Airwaves

Gagandeep Kaur

Details of license winners in India's $17.5 billion spectrum sale were released yesterday, showing that India's three biggest mobile operators had managed to cling on to their 900MHz holdings and pick up new airwaves for the rollout of 3G services. (See India's Mega Spectrum Sale Garners $17.5B and India's Spectrum Sale Shatters Records .)

Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), Vodafone India and Idea Cellular Ltd. -- which had all been fighting to defend existing 2G operations -- stumped up as much as 78% of the total auction proceeds, while Reliance Communications Ltd. (the country's number-four player) appeared to lose some of its 900MHz concessions and Uninor walked away from process empty-handed.

Although India's Department of Telecom (DoT) has released provisional results, they remain subject to government approval as well as a Supreme Court ruling on complaints about the auction procedures. In the meantime, Light Reading has prepared a breakdown of how each player performed on this provisional basis.

Idea Cellular
At risk of losing mobile licenses covering nine circles (or service areas), Idea Cellular was an especially aggressive bidder in the 900MHz band. In total, it procured 54MHz in this frequency range at a cost of INR276.4 billion ($4.4 billion). But it secured just 20.4MHz in the 1800MHz band and only 5MHz in the 2.1GHz band and did not even bid for spectrum on offer in the 800MHz band. Evidently, Idea's idea was to focus its energies on 900MHz spectrum and look to 1800MHz and 2.1GHz only in circles where it could not procure the former.

Table 1: Idea Cellular

Circle 900MHz 1800MHz 2.1GHz
Spectrum Cost ($M) Spectrum Cost ($M) Spectrum Cost ($M)
Andhra Pradesh 5MHz 544.33
Gujarat 5MHz 538.14
Himachal Pradesh 4.8MHz 12.21
Haryana 6MHz 145.05
Karnataka 5MHz 445.78 1MHz 29.59
Kolkata 5MHz 92.42
Kerala 6MHz 354.45
Madhya Pradesh 7.4MHz 366.27
Maharashtra 9MHz 1,112.58
North East 1MHz 1.76
Orissa 5MHz 26.47
Punjab 5.6MHz 323.07
Tamil Nadu 6.4MHz 230.29
UP (W) 5MHz 590.54 2.2MHz 33.74
UP (E)
West Bengal
Total 54MHz 4,420.21 20.4MHz 334.05 5MHz 92.42
Source: DoT

For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated Mobile content channel here on Light Reading.

Bharti Airtel
Like Idea, Bharti Airtel decided to give 800MHz a miss. It bought 61.2MHz in the 900MHz band and bid fairly aggressively for 2.1GHz, securing 35MHz in this frequency range. That suggests the operator is eager to extend its 3G services into previously underserved areas.

The operator, India's largest, spent INR222.54 billion ($3.56 billion) on securing 900MHz spectrum in 10 circles and another INR10.42 billion ($167 million) on 1800MHz licenses covering six circles. Its 35MHz of 2.1GHz spectrum, which covers a total of seven circles, came at a cost of INR58 billion ($933 million).

"The company's spectrum acquisition strategy is aimed at enhancing its leadership position in the fast-growing data segment in the country," said Bharti Airtel in a statement.

Table 2: Bharti Airtel

Circle 900MHz 1800MHz 2.1GHz
Spectrum Cost ($M) Spectrum Cost ($M) Spectrum Cost ($M)
Andhra Pradesh 9MHz 979.79 1.2MHz 46.59
Assam 6.2MHz 183.37
Bihar 1.6MHz 113.67
Gujarat 5MHz 206.30
Himachal Pradesh 7.4MHz 67.98
Haryana 3.4MHz 25.33 5MHz 36.78
Karnataka 8.8MHz 784.58
Kolkata 2MHz 47.69
Madhya Pradesh 5MHz 73.04
Maharashtra 5MHz 240.68
North East 8.8MHz 73.04 1.6MHz 2.81
Orissa 1.2MHz 26.68 6.2MHz 32.82 5MHz 28.82
Punjab 10MHz 576.92 1MHz 11.35
Tamil Nadu 5MHz 275.07
Rajasthan 6MHz 679.97
UP (W)
UP (E) 5MHz 72.20
West Bengal 2.2MHz 73.00
Total 61.2MHz 3,559.03 15.4MHz 166.61 35MHz 932.91
Source: DoT

Next page: Vodafone, RJio and RCom

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3/29/2015 | 4:51:58 PM
Re: Mind Boggling
I can understand the hardware network being out of date due to inadequate spending coupled with high growth, but wouldn't India use the same software for networking as everyone else?

Or do they have barriers to entry or high tariffs for imported technology like software?

3/29/2015 | 3:40:53 PM
Re: Mind Boggling
Our networks are so backdated even by 4G standards, there is too much latency on these networks, too much noise and too little software and hardware development to support these systems.
3/28/2015 | 12:55:29 PM
Mind Boggling
A nation of 1.2 billion with incredible population density.  It's hard to comprehend the complexity of building and running telecommunication infrastructure in the Indian nation!   The US with its sprawl and unpopulated rural areas doesn't even come close to the problems involved!


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