NEW DELHI: The government netted a record Rs 1.45 lakh crore on the first day of 5G spectrum sale on Tuesday, much higher than the Rs 1.1 lakh crore it made in 2015. The coveted high-speed services are expected to be offered across top cities from September-October.
The unexpectedly high windfall from the 5G sale, which is likely to be concluded on Wednesday with not much significant change in the overall collections, follows a massive relief package given to the telecom industry which not long ago was battling financial stress and high debt.
“The swashbuckling response has shown that all previous records achieved in the spectrum sale will be broken. We expect 5G services to begin later this year, and this will result in fresh investments, new jobs and much better quality of services in the telecom sector,” communications and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said.
Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio is expected to have contributed to the surge in collections, with Airtel and Vodafone Idea following behind. New entrant Gautam Adani had gone for a modest opening in his telecom debut — that he insisted is only in the enterprise space and not consumer mobility — with just a Rs 100 crore earnest money deposit (EMD) towards the sale process.
The key process of 5G spectrum sales had begun a few months back, after regulator Trai submitted its recommendations on the matter. But it got mired in controversy very quickly when existing telecom companies Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea (represented by industry lobby COAI) protested the opening of private captive networks to non-telecom companies.
And it was not only the analysts and market watchers who were expecting a modest sale. “We had initially expected to garner Rs 80,000-90,000 crore through the spectrum sale, but what has happened is a welcome surprise. We feel that the industry has turned around from its difficult period, and is now being seen as a sunrise sector,” said Vaishnaw.
The government had put up a total of 72GHz of spectrum on sale — worth at least Rs 4.4 lakh crore just at the reserve price — though the market was not expecting a high-pitched battle and heavy buying due to abundance of the airwaves on sale. The government is hoping to wrap up the sale this week, and complete the postsale official formalities before August 15, Vaishnaw said.
“We are hoping to launch 5G services for the common man across many key cities by September-October this year. This will be a huge upgrade to India’s telecom ecosystem.”