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Indian spectrum auctions pull in $16 billion

The final sum raised by India’s spectrum auctions has been announced as INR1.02 trillion ($16.27 billion).

Following 49 rounds of bidding across 8 days, around 86% of the available spectrum has been sold. Eight operators took part in the auctions, which saw particularly fierce competition for spectrum in the 900MHz band.

This band is particularly desirable as it can now be used to provide 3G services. Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone spent heavily to acquire spectrum in this band as their 900MHz licences expire this year, with The Economic Times commenting that the outlay had likely diminished “much of their resources and appetite for further competition”.

Reliance Jio Infocomm may have played a part in this by biding its time in an attempt to acquire 3G spectrum at a cheaper cost. An unnamed executive at a ‘leading’ mobile operator told the ET: “It appears as though Jio is pushing up the price for 900MHz knowing it is critical for us. Obviously, if retaining 900MHz eats up our war chest, we won’t be able to bid as aggressively for 2.1GHz.”

However, not all frequencies were in such high demand. In particular, 2.1GHz spectrum attracted bids that were just 4% higher than the reserve price, despite the fact that it can be used to offer 3G services. The frequency was completely ignored in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Mumbai, while the 800MHz band attracted no bids in Bihar, Karnataka, Kolkata, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh East and West.



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