India’s third-generation (3G) mobile spectrum auction ended on Wednesday, its 34th day, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said, concluding a scramble that saw bidding far exceed forecasts.
Nine mobile operators, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone’s Indian unit, had participated in the auction. Vodafone, Bharti, Reliance Comm came out successfully and won key circles such as Mumbai and Delhi.
The government is yet to announce the details of the auction.
As of Tuesday, 180 rounds of bidding had been completed, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said on its website, with bids for one set of nationwide 3G mobile spectrum licence reaching 165.31 billion rupees ($3.63 billion).
The outcome of the auction is expected to exacerbate the gap between the haves and the have-nots in India’s crowded and fiercely competitive mobile market and eventually trigger a wave of consolidation.
The government was selling four sets of national licences — three from the auction and one to state-run telecoms firms which would have to match the highest bid price paid by the private operators — plus some extra licences per zone.
The 3G auction will be followed by an auction for wireless broadband spectrum, for which 11 firms are vying for two national licences for private operators, with one slot reserved for state telecoms firms.
Bidding surpassed expectations and will help the government plug its fiscal deficit, which last year reached a 16-year high.
India is a late adapter of 3G and is the biggest economy not to offer such premium services on a wide scale, although the state-run telecoms firms have 3G services in some zones.
China, the world’s biggest telecoms market, took a long-delayed 3G plunge last year by awarding licences to the country’s top-three phone operators.
In 2000, the UK raised more than $35 billion from a spectrum auction, while Germany collected about $67 billion from its UMTS licence auctions. In 2008, the United States raised $18 billion from spectrum auction.