India’s latest spectrum auction raised more than $10 billion in bids – with more than three quarters of that coming on its first day. Vodafone splashed the most cash on additional bandwidth, landing spectrum across all of its key circles – market areas – with a total spend surpassing $3 billion over the five day of bids.
Vodafone India bought a total of 2 × 82.6MHZ FDD and 200MHZ TDD spectrum in the auction, giving it multi-band 4G capability operating across the 1800, 2100 and 2500MHZ bands. It now has 4G capability in 17 circles.
Market leader Bharti Airtel acquired 173.8MHZ of spectrum across the 1,800, 2100 and 2300MHZ bands, spending $2.13 billion on bids. Idea Cellular, which is third in the market, also spent big, with bids of $1.92 billion.
Reliance Jio Infocomm, which recently launched 4G services, spent $2.05 billion. With that, it acquired the rights to use 269.2MHZ of spectrum across all 22 service areas.
“We have expanded our spectrum footprint thereby significantly enhancing capacity of our all-ip data strong network and ensuring world class services for all Indians. Jio is committed to taking India to global digital leadership by bringing the power of data to all Indians,” said Jio founder Mukesh Ambani.
Altogether, seven carriers participated in the auction, according to the Indian government, although the likes of Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices made decisions not to spend massive sums.
Notably, all seven bidders chose to shun the most expensive spectrum bands on offer, with analysts claiming the government overpriced the 700MHZ band.
Carriers instead opted to buy spectrum across the 1800 and 2300MHZ bands, in what turned out to be India’s largest ever spectrum auction.
The Indian government was offering spectrum across seven bands (700MHZ, 900MHZ, 1800MHZ, 2100MHZ, 2300MHZ and 2500MHZ) but came under fire for pricing the premium 700MHZ bandwidth too highly. Despite being better for travelling through walls, the lower frequencies received less bids than the higher ones. This meant that the carriers bid for less than half of the spectrum that was on offer, although the Indian government is expected to hold more rounds of bidding. It is hoping to raise $84 billion from the bandwidth auction altogether.
“In fact, the financial strain on the industry and a high reserve price are the major reasons why the 700MHZ band did not attract bidders,” Rajan Mathews, director general of industry lobby group the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) was reported as saying.
“On many an occasion, COAI has raised the issue of the high reserve price on the band, and how this could affect investor interest during the auction.”