The just concluded spectrum auction saw operators bidding sensibly and not going overboard, basically by adopting the strategy of filling gaps in their portfolio to provide 3G and 4G services. The idea was to get spectrum in circles they did not have any and garner more where they may be required to create extra capacity layer. This perhaps explains the demand for 4G spectrum, with the 2300 MHz band fully sold out and aggressive bidding for 1800 MHz in some circles.
In the post-auction scenario, Bharti Airtel remains the leader in terms of total spectrum holding while Reliance Jio Infocomm has the largest holding in the sub-1 GHz band, where the propagation characteristic is seen as better than spectrum in higher bands. This is because Reliance Jio has spectrum in the 800 MHz band whereas Bharti has none.
The total spectrum holding of Bharti is now at 701 MHz, of which 520 MHz is for 3G and 4G. RJio is next with a total holding of 554 MHz.
Bharti plugged its 3G gap in Kerala and bought additional 3G (2100 MHz) spectrum in Delhi, Bihar, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir. It also bought 10 MHz in the 2300 MHz band (4G) in 13 circles (Bharti already has a 20 MHz block in 17 circles), giving it considerable data capacity. In 1800 MHz, it has filled its gap by acquiring spectrum in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Kolkata and Maharashtra, thus giving it a block of 5 MHz.
Reliance Jio also bought additional 10 MHz in 2300 MHz band in 16 circles. Jio also managed to successfully fill its 1800 MHz gaps in Bihar, J&K, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (West). In addition, it was able to expand capacity in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, UP (East) and West Bengal. Jio also renewed its spectrum (acquired from RCom) in Gujarat in the 800 MHz band.
Both Bharti and Jio not only had the capability of providing 4G across all the circles, they have further strengthened their position by buying additional spectrum. However, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, though having strengthened their portfolios, still have gaps. For instance, Vodafone can now provide 4G services across 17 circles from 9 earlier and Idea in 20 from the earlier 11.
Idea Cellular bought spectrum in 1800, 2100, 2300 and 2500 MHz bands and now has 3G capability in 15 circles and 4G in 20. The company bought 10 MHz block of 2500 MHz spectrum in 11 circles, and 10 MHz block of 2300 MHz in three circles. The company did not have any spectrum in these bands earlier. In 2100 MHz, it had 5 MHz spectrum in 12 circles and bought a block of 5 MHz in four circles — UP (East), Rajasthan, Bihar and Mumbai — in this auction. The combined 10 MHz Idea now has in UP (East) will enable it to provide faster speeds equivalent to 4G.