Spectrum Auction Day 3: Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone boost bids to Rs 50,000 crore

PTI Posted online: Wednesday, Feb 05, 2014 at 0000 hrs
New Delhi : Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone raked in bids of around Rs 50,000 crore at the end of third day of wireless spectrum auction today, surpassing landmarks of previous two sales.

In all 21 rounds of bidding were concluded by end of day-3 with bids pouring in for all the 22 circles or regional zones.

"Bids of around Rs 50,000 crore received at the end of 21 rounds on third day of spectrum auction," Telecom Secretary MF Farooqui said.

Eight companies including Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone are competing for two bandwidth slots - 900 MegaHertz and 1,800 MHz in 22 circles - offered in the third spectrum auction within 15 months.

Aggressive bidding was seen for the 900 MHz, which is in short supply and is being auctioned in just three cities, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata -- markets where licences of Bharti and Vodafone are to expire in November unless they buy the radiowaves in this round of auction.

"Besides 900 Mhz band, now demand for 1800 Mhz in many circles also picked up today. We will continue with auction tomorrow," he said.

The auction, which began on Monday, has surpassed November 2012 and March 2013 auction both in terms of revenue and duration.

After 21 rounds, the government has received bids worth Rs 20,000 crore for 900 MHz band and Rs 30,000 crore for 1800 MHz band.

Farooqui said the government will get at least Rs 15,000 crore in the current fiscal based on the bids received at the end of third day, even if the bidders opt to pay the final auction price in installments.

Demand for 1800 Mhz spectrum increased in 10 circles with competition intensifying in Assam, Delhi and West Bengal Service area.

In premium 900 Mhz band, rigorous bidding was seen in Delhi service area where price increased by about 60 per cent to Rs 574.08 crore compared to base price fixed by government.

The 900 Mhz spectrum price in Mumbai service area soared about 72 per cent to Rs 563.09 crore per block from base price.

Price of airwaves in this band increased by about 54 per cent in Kolkata to Rs 192.71 crore.

The government's two previous auctions flopped because the floor price discouraged bidders.

Out of five online spectrum auctions, the present auction is largest in terms of quantum of airwaves put for sale and third longest till date in terms of duration.

3G auction in 2010 lasted for 34 days, broadband wireless airwaves ended in 16 days while 2G auction in November ended in two days and CDMA auction in March concluded the same day.

Government has put about 385 megahertz of spectrum for auction in 1800 Mhz band most of which were freed from cancellation of 122 licences by Supreme Court in 2012.

The apex court had directed government to put all spectrum thus freed. However, there was minimal demand seen for this 2G spectrum. Aggressive bidding is being witnessed in 900 Mhz band in three metros -Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata where total of 46 Mhz of airwaves had been put for auction.

The spectrum in 900 Mhz band put for auction is held by Vodafone, Airtel and Loop. While Loop Mobile is not participating in auction, it is a must win situation for Vodafone and Airtel in auction to retain their airwaves.

New entrant Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm is also competing for these airwaves.

Mobile signal transmitted in 900 Mhz band gives almost double coverage than those transmitted in the 1800 Mhz band.

On the second day of auction, government received bids worth Rs 25,500 crore were received for 251 Mhz of spectrum in 1800 Mhz band (2G). Bids for about Rs 19,000 crore -- 42 per cent of total bid value -- was received for just 46 Mhz of spectrum 900 Mhz band. The government's two previous auctions flopped because the floor price discouraged bidders.

Even if bidders opt to pay the final auction price in installments in this auction, the government will get at least Rs 11,790 crore as per data based on second day figures, exceeding the target of Rs 11,343 crore in upfront payments.

The budget for 2013-14 set a total target of Rs 40,874 crore from spectrum revenue in this fiscal and a bumper collection for airwaves auction would help the government help to keep fiscal deficit under control.

The country's fiscal deficit at Rs 5.16 lakh crore has already crossed 95 per cent of budget target in the first nine months of 2013-14.