India’s 5G spectrum auction: four bidders confirmed

India’s 5G spectrum auction: four bidders confirmed

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has approved four bidders for the auction of 5G spectrum in India scheduled to start on 26 July.

Alongside the expected participation of Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for this, the first-ever Indian auction of 5G spectrum, Adani Data Networks will also be taking part.

As we reported earlier this month, Indian conglomerate Adani Group has plans to launch private network solutions rather than take on wide area consumer markets. It is therefore likely to be targeting limited amounts of spectrum in selected areas. This may be the reason for its modest earnest money deposit (EMD), which was only Rs100 crore (about US$12.5 million).

India’s Economic Times explains that the level of EMD indicates a company's bidding strategy and spectrum buying capacity as it gives the applicant eligibility points, based on which it can target a certain amount of spectrum in selected or all available bands in some or all telecom circles (service areas).

Not too surprisingly, market leader Jio has submitted an EMD of Rs14,000 crore (about US$1.753 billion) and Bharti Airtel’s EMD is Rs5,500 crore (about US$689 million). Vodafone Idea (aka Vi) has deposited Rs2,200 crore (some US$275.5 million). This probably means it will buy 5G spectrum in limited quantities and in its priority markets.

The DoT plans to auction 72GHz of spectrum valid for 20 years. The frequency bands on sale are 600MHz, 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 2300MHz, 2500MHz, 3.3-3.67GHz and 26GHz. The overall base price is Rs4.3 lakh crore, a staggering US$53.821 billion.

It’s not clear, however, that all these bands will sell. Most of the interest, at least from the established operators, is expected to be around the C band 3.3-3.67GHz airwaves and 26GHz (or millimetre wave).

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