The auction also highlights the urgent need for vacating E-GSM spectrum in the 800 MHz band
As was expected, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India bid aggressively and successfully for 900 MHz band spectrum in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata circles where their licences are expiring later this year, while new entrant Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio Infocomm that already has pan-India 4G spectrum surprised everyone by opting for 1800 MHz band in 14 out of 22 circles.
Of the total of eight companies that took part in the bidding process, all but Tata Teleservices managed to get spectrum. While Idea Cellular managed to bag radio waves in 900 MHz in Delhi circle and 11 circles in 1800 MHz band, Telewings (Uninor), Aircel and Reliance Communications of Anil Ambani bagged spectrum in 1800 MHz band. Vodafone put in bids worth Rs.19,600 crore to win 900 MHz radio waves in the three metros and 2G 1800 MHz spectrum in 11 circles.
Similarly, Bharti Airtel spent Rs.18,530 crore to retain 900 MHz band spectrum in Delhi and Kolkata besides adding the same in Mumbai. It also won 1,800 MHz spectrum in 15 circles. Telewings (Uninor) won spectrum in five circles in 1800 MHz band, while Reliance Communications won just one circle of 1800 MHz in Mumbai and Aircel got five circles in the same band. “We are pleased to have secured our business for the next 20 years in three of our most important circles by buying enough spectrum to continue our successful journey. We have also opened the door to the next generation of mobile technology, 4G, by acquiring 1800 MHz spectrum,” said Vodafone India Managing Director & CEO Marten Pieters.
“The auction has raised over Rs.61,000 crore for the government, but much of this will end up as debt on the balance-sheets of the mobile operators. Such high industry indebtedness will hurt operators’ ability to invest in the roll-out of new technologies and invariably result in higher prices and reduced service levels for consumers,” he added. Similarly, Bharti Airtel said its spectrum acquisition was in line with its strategy of building a robust network of the future and enhancing its leadership position in the fast growing data segment.
Bharti Airtel Joint Managing Director and CEO (India) Gopal Vittal said: “The auction has provided much needed long-term certainty and clarity around spectrum and other regulatory policies. However, future auctions should ensure that more spectrum in the 900 MHz band is secured from other agencies and the operators who are grossly underutilising this important spectrum band. The auction also highlights the urgent need for vacating E-GSM spectrum in the 800 MHz band, which is being used for older technologies or is lying unused with certain agencies.”