The 5G spectrum auction in India is underway, seeing the participation of leading telecom companies, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and newcomer Adani Data Networks. On opening day, the auction garnered bids worth Rs 1.45 lakh crore, surpassing the expectations from the spectrum auction this year. The second day, however, became more intense. The government added another Rs 4,000 crore to the bid amount, which now totals about Rs 1.49 lakh crore.
“So far, at the end of the ninth round, we have grossed about Rs 1,49,454 crore (Rs 1.49 trillion). We have been able to successfully generate confidence in the industry,” Ashwini Vaishnaw, Communications Minister, told media at the end of Day 2 of the 5G spectrum auction.
What was on offer on Day 2?
While Day 1 saw all participants bid on the low-band of airwaves, which include frequencies such as 600MHz, Day 2 is when the telecom companies tried to beat each other as they called dibs on the mid-band, also known as C-band with frequencies between 3.3GHz and 3.67GHz, and the high band of 26GHz airwaves.
Reliance Jio remained the most bullish bidder in the auction, having spent over Rs 82,500 crore on different bands of airwaves. From the beginning, speculation was that Jio will make the highest bids, as much as it would finally go for the premium 700MHz band. Jio’s EMD (earnest money deposit) is also the highest, giving it an advantage in placing bids. Analysts believe Jio has bought some airwaves in the 700MHz band, while also adding the mid-band and high band airwaves to its kitty.
Airtel has been the second top-performing bidder by far. With a bidding amount of Rs 46,000 crore, Airtel has so far targeted the mid-band of 3.6GHz and the high band of 26GHz in the auction. Airtel reportedly does not have its eyes set on the premium 700MHz band. By not placing any bid for the 700MHz, Airtel may not compete with Jio in the 5G space, which is a shame.
Vodafone Idea spent over 19,000 crore for the same mid-band and high-band airwaves, much like Airtel. Clearly, the fight in giving the ultimate 5G experience is not going to see much of Airtel and Vi, but who knows what tricks they might have up their sleeve. Adani Data Networks, the newcomer stemming from the Adani Group, is bidding only for the 26GHz band as it does not want to enter the consumer space. It has spent around Rs 900 – 1,000 crore in the auction so far.
The showdown moments in the auction
During the auction, a healthy war broke out. Every bidder wanted to outmatch others in the UP-East circle, which consists of important cities of Lucknow, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi, and Gorakhpur. According to an ET report, citing an industry executive, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel engaged in an intense fight in the 1800MHz band in the UP-East circle. “There was excessive demand particularly in UP-East, reflected in the aggressive bidding,” the executive was quoted as saying.
A similar fight was also witnessed for the auction of airwaves in the Odisha circle. Both Reliance Jio and Airtel tried out outbid each other in the 1800MHz band, which is one of the most ideal in terms of both coverage and data speeds. Both companies battled over mid-band airwaves in eight other circles, including Jammu & Kashmir, Northeast, Karnataka, Kerala, UP-West, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh, and Himachal Pradesh.
“In all those places, coverage is very important. To get good coverage, you need a lower band. We are confident that this will provide a very high quality of service to the far-flung areas of our country,” said Vaishnaw.
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