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Dial 1800: Battle for UP (East) pushes 5G Auction to Day 4 – Economic Times

Bids for 5G airwaves inched up by ₹169 crore on Thursday even as a spirited battle for 1800 MHz in UP (East) and action in the mid band or C-band (3.3-3.67 GHz) and high band (26 GHz) spectrum across geographies unexpectedly pushed the auctions to a fourth day.

The government has netted ₹149,623 crore at the end of the 16th round on Thursday, with the incremental gains coming entirely from the price increase in UP (E).

Telcos had bid for airwaves worth ₹1,49,454 crore at the end of day two. The previous record of government collection from spectrum auctions was ₹1.09 lakh crore in 2015.

“The industry is committed to taking services to rural areas,” telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told reporters. Unlike the first two days, Vaishnaw did not project the likely end date of the auctions.

An industry executive said the bidding patterns showed that the intense fight that had broken out on Wednesday between Reliance Jio and

in the key UP (East) circle has continued into the third day. (Vi) was also said to have put its hat in the ring, making the circle the only one to see bid prices rise on Thursday as well. The price for the band in the circle has risen to around ₹113.6 crore, up around 25% from its base price of ₹91 crore.

Highest Number of Subscribers

“The data shows all bidding action today was in 1800 MHz in the UP-East circle with both

and Vi likely stepping on the gas to grab additional airwaves in this band (that’s ideal for capacity and coverage) to combat Jio,” said a top industry executive who tracks bidding patterns.

These airwaves, he said, are vital along with mid band, for the older carriers as they may face serious challenges in defending market share in UP (East) with Jio likely to have got the coveted 700 MHz spectrum in this most populous market. Jio, which is targeting big-bang pan-India 5G rollout, has been the sole buyer of the 700 MHz band, buying 10 MHz across India, say experts.

UP (East) has the highest number of subscribers in India at 101.54 million, almost 10% of India’s total wireless subscriber base at May end, as per the telecom regulator’s data, the latest available, making it a highly lucrative circle.

Airtel has the highest subscriber base in this circle with 37.46 million users, followed by Jio with 32.92 million users, Vi with 20.23 million, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) with 10.91 million. However, Jio has the highest revenue market share (RMS) of 48.2%, with Airtel a close second at 39.9% and Vi lagging far behind at 9.4%.

There was some demand for 1800 MHz spectrum in the Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Orissa and Rajasthan circles as well. There was also demand for the C band and the high band across circles. But the prices did not move across any of these bands and circles as there was excess supply.

Two circles – Assam and J&K – also saw demand for the 900 MHz band while there were some takers for the 2100 MHz band in the Delhi, Gujarat and Karnataka service areas. The 2500 MHz band saw demand only in AP.