Reliance Jio has emerged the highest bidder in the 4G telecom spectrum auction, which concluded on Tuesday in just six rounds, beating incumbents Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea by a wide margin. The Centre would get Rs 77,815 crore from the two-day auction — one of the shortest in a decade. While the amount has exceeded the government expectation, the total mop-up is far below the Rs 3.92 trillion worth of airwaves put up for sale.
Spectrum has been sold across a few preferred bands at the base price. In fact, on Tuesday, the total bid amount inched up by less than Rs 700 crore from the previous day’s close at Rs 77,146 crore.
Reliance Jio has bagged more than 50 per cent of the total quantum of airwaves sold by paying Rs 57,122.65 crore. Of the 855.6 megahertz of spectrum sold, Jio has got 488 megahertz. The company spent more than 60 per cent of this amount on buying spectrum in the 800 Mhz band — the next best bet after the most expensive 700 Mhz band which went unsold once more. Bharti Airtel bought Rs 18,698.75 crore worth of spectrum with the bulk of its purchase in the 2300 Mhz band. Financially-stressed Vodafone Idea purchased the least amount of spectrum at Rs 1,993.40 crore.
The Department of Telecommunications hopes to garner Rs 19,000-20,000 crore as upfront payment from this auction before the end of the current financial year.
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“We want to ensure that we keep on enhancing experiences, not only for our existing customers, but also for the next 300 million users who will move to digital services. With our increased spectrum footprint, we are ready to further expand the digital footprint in India as well as get ourselves ready for the imminent 5G rollout,” Mukesh D Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries, said in a statement.
Bharti Airtel, which had earlier said that it would bid for 4G to fill in its spectrum gaps, believes the latest auction would enable it to continue delivering quality mobile broadband experience. ‘’We are most excited at bringing the power of Airtel services to an additional 90 million customers in India through the power of our Pan India Sub GHz footprint,” Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said in a statement.
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Vodafone Idea too issued a statement to say the company had used the auction opportunity to optimize spectrum holding and create further efficiencies in some circles.
The auction results will be scrutinised by an inter-ministerial panel and reviewed by finance and telecom ministers. The exercise is expected to be completed in the next 10 days, after which the companies will be given another 10 days to deposit the upfront amount.
“Keeping the current scenario in mind, we had anticipated to get Rs 45,000-50,000 crore from these auctions as a lot of the spectrum on offer is renewal spectrum,” Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash told reporters.
Of the total available spectrum of 2308 megahertz, 855.60 megahertz was sold in the auctions. A total of 37 per cent of the spectrum by quantity and 19 per cent by value was sold.
Nearly 65 per cent of the 800 Mhz spectrum on offer and 89 per cent of the airwaves offered in the 2300 Mhz band were sold. Both 2500 Mhz and 700 Mhz — premium spectrum — went unsold. The industry had opposed the steep reserve price recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in certain bands.
The last spectrum auctions were held in October 2016, fetching the government Rs 65,789 crore in revenue.