The biggest ever auction of 2G and 3G airwaves today began on a high note with operators making bids worth an estimated Rs 60,000 crore after six rounds of bidding in all four bands.
The bidding will resume tomorrow morning in the auction through which the government was expecting to raise over Rs 82,000 crore. The final amount may go much higher if bids continue at such an aggressive pace.
“Six rounds of bidding were concluded today with bids worth Rs 60,000 crore coming in all the four bands on offer,” a source privy to the development said.
Incumbent Bharti Airtel and Vodafone are locked with upstart carrier Reliance Jio of billionaire Mukesh Ambani to protect their spectrum they need to carry voice and data in the world’s second-biggest smartphone market. In all, eight bidders are in fray.
The auction is the biggest ever sale of 2G and 3G airwaves which may fetch the government over Rs 82,000 crore at the base price. The government is selling airwaves in four bands: 2,100 megahertz (Mhz), 1,800 MHz, 900 MHz and 800 MHz.
While 900 Mhz and 2,100 MHz bands witnessed good bidding, 800 MHz was the surprise band with lot of interest. However, there was not much bidding in Mumbai, Delhi and Karnataka circles in the 2,100 MHz band, the source said.
The government will not release results of the auction because of a court ruling.
“The Indian telecoms auction starting today is likely to see intense bidding by telcos to retain their existing spectrum and to acquire new spectrum as supply is limited,” Fitch Ratings said.
A total of 380.75 MHz of spectrum is on offer in the premium 900 MHz band, 1,800 MHz and 800 MHz while 5 MHz is up for bidding in the 2,100 MHz band across 17 out of 22 telecom areas or circles in the country.
Most of the spectrum put up for auction is presently held by Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Telecom. Their licences are expiring in 2015-16.
Mobile licences for nine circles of Idea Cellular, six circles of Airtel and seven circles each of Vodafone and Reliance Telecom are coming up for renewal.
Overall, there are 29 licences in 18 service areas which will expire in 2015-16. These licences hold 184 MHz spectrum in the 900 MHz band and 34.2 MHz in 1,800 MHz band.
It is mandatory for these companies to bid for spectrum if they have to continue offering mobile and other telecom services as their permit is expiring.
The government had raked in Rs 62,162 crore from the last spectrum auction held in February 2014.