Spectrum Auction 2021 Concluded: Reliance Jio Emerges as Biggest Bidder for Shelling Out Over Rs. 57,100 Crore


Spectrum auction 2021 was concluded on Tuesday, after lasting for two days and six bidding rounds in total. Reliance Jio emerged as the biggest bidder, with Rs. 57,122.65 crores for 488.35MHz spectrum, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology said in a statement. The operator noted that with the fresh bidding, its spectrum footprint increased by 55 percent to 1711MHz and became the largest spectrum holdings in sub-GHz and 2300MHz. Bharti Airtel, on the other hand, emerged as the second biggest bidder in the auction. It acquired 355.45MHz of airwaves at Rs. 18,698.75 crores. Vodafone Idea, that operates under the brand Vi, came last with 11.80MHz spectrum at Rs. 1,993.40 crores.

Through the latest spectrum auction, the government was able to garner Rs. 77,814.80 crores for the total of 855.60MHz spectrum. Incremental bids for Rs. 668.20 crores were notably made on Tuesday alone.

Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vi were the only bidders for the spectrum auction 2021 that put airwaves in 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2300MHz bands on bidding. However, the ministry said that the participants did not bid in 700MHz and 2500MHz bands.

The government received bids for the 855.60MHz spectrum out of 2308.80MHz being put to auction this time. Excluding spectrum in 700MHz and 2500MHz, this is about 60 percent of the spectrum put to auction, the ministry noted.

Reliance Jio said in a separate statement that it acquired the right to use spectrum in 22 circles across the country in the recently concluded spectrum auctions. The operator said that the acquired spectrum could be utilised for transition to 5G services. However, it is important to note that the latest spectrum auction was specifically for 4G bands as the government is yet to kick off a specific bidding for 5G networks.

“With our increased spectrum footprint, we are ready to further expand the digital footprint in India as well as get ourselves ready for the imminent 5G rollout,” said Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries.

Airtel said in its statement that it acquired 355.45MHz spectrum across sub-GHz, mid-band, and 2300MHz that will cover 90 million additional customers.

“Airtel now has a solid spectrum portfolio that will enable it to continue delivering the best mobile broadband experience in India,” said Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel.

The operator also highlighted that none of the operators participating in the latest auction didn’t pick the 700MHz band due to the absence of economic case based on the high reserve prices. The low-frequency band is specifically used to bolster internal cellular coverage.

“The 700MHz band coupled with the 3.5GHz band has the potential to accelerate India’s progress to the top league of digitally enabled nations. Therefore, the reserve pricing of these bands must be addressed on priority in future. This will help the nation to benefit from the digital dividend that will inevitably arise out of this,” it said.

Vodafone Idea noted that it entered the auction this year holding the largest quantum of spectrum with a very small fraction. It will be “administratively allocated and used for GSM services, coming up for renewal,” the operator mentioned.

Spectrum assigned to the participating telecom operators will be valid for 20 years.

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