Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Reliance Jio among top bidders in spectrum auction

The country’s major telecom services majors Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have paid through the roof to retain airwaves in the 900 MHz band to run their services for the next 20 years while Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL) has won airwaves in 1800 MHz in as many as 14 circles.

Reliance Jio Infocomm, which is said to have ramped up the bid price for the more expensive airwaves in 900 MHz band, did not win any spectrum in that band. It will pay Rs 11,054 crore for the spectrum of which one-third will be upfront and the rest will be paid in 10 equal annual instalments with a two-year moratorium. With this acquisition, RJIL's total spectrum footprint has increased from 440 MHz to 597.6 MHz.

It has won spectrum for Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata besides Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu. It has also won spectrum in Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal besides Assam, North East and Orissa.

Among all the firms in the auction, Airtel and Vodafone, the top two telcos in the country, bid the highest amount.

Airtel bid Rs 18,530 crore for 115.0 MHz spectrum, and will make an upfront payment of Rs 5,425 crore, with the balance to be paid in ten annual instalments of Rs 1,310 crores each, commencing two years from now.

Its licences for operations in Delhi and Kolkata under the more efficient 900 MHz band were due to expire in November which it won back as it did for Mumbai too. It also won 1,800 MHz spectrum in 15 circles.

Vodafone, whose licence in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata was due to expire in November this year and needed to continue operations, also spent almost the same as Airtel to win back 900 MHz airwaves in the three metros and 2G 1800 MHz spectrum in 11 circles or zones.

Idea Cellular is shelling out around $1.7 billion in the auction. Telenor's Indian unit, Reliance Communications and Aircel also won airwaves in the 1,800 MHz band in some zones. All the companies have the right to use the airwaves won in the auction for 20 years.

In all, the auction will fetch the government Rs 61,162 crore, of which Rs 18,296.36 crore will flow to the exchequer within this fiscal. The government was initially expecting only Rs 11,300 crore of revenues to come from the spectrum auction in the current year.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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