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5G spectrum auction Day 1: What Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea bid for

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The 5G spectrum auction began today, i.e., June 25, with telecom operators bidding Rs 11,259.11 crore in the first day's five rounds, according to the Day 1 report published on the Department of Telecommunications website. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sold 141 MHz of spectrum out of 10,522.35 MHz available, primarily focusing on mid and low-frequency bands, the report revealed. The auction is set to continue on June 26.

Three major players - Reliance Jio , Bharti Airtel , and Vodafone Idea - are participating in the auction. The three telecom operators have collectively deposited Rs 4,350 crore as earnest money, significantly lower than previous auctions. Reliance Jio submitted the highest deposit at Rs 3,000 crore, while Bharti Airtel deposited Rs 1,050 crore, and Vodafone Idea put in Rs 300 crore.

Telcos show interest in multiple bands

The Day 1 report indicates that the 900 MHz band attracted the most interest, with 60.4 MHz sold for Rs 7,004 crore. The 1800 MHz band saw 50.6 MHz sold for Rs 3,614 crore, and the 2100 MHz band had 20 MHz sold for Rs 546 crore. Telecom companies also showed interest in other bands, including 800 MHz, 2500 MHz, and 26 GHz.

Interestingly, there was no demand reported for the 3300 MHz band, which is considered ideal for 5G signals.

Government aims for Rs 10,000 crore revenue
The government is offering spectrum worth Rs 96,317.65 crore in this auction, aiming to raise approximately Rs 10,000 crore. However, brokerage reports estimate the final amount could range between Rs 4,000 crore and Rs 16,600 crore. However, this amount is significantly lower than the record Rs 1.5 lakh crore raised in the 2022 auction.

The spectrum acquired in this auction will be valid for 20 years, with options for sharing, trading, leasing, and surrendering after 10 years. Telecom operators can choose to pay the full amount upfront or opt for deferred payments with a higher interest rate of 8.65% compared to the previous auction.

Bharti Airtel is expected to be the biggest spender in this auction, with analysts predicting an outlay of around Rs 10,400 crore. The company is reportedly looking to firm up its sub-1GHz holdings and increase its share in the 1800-MHz and 2300-MHz bands. Airtel is also facing spectrum renewals in six circles: Assam, Bihar, J&K, Orissa, UP East, and West Bengal.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) stated that the auction would catalyze the rapid rollout of 5G services, leading to improved coverage and connectivity.

Lt. Gen. Dr. S.P. Kochhar, Director General of COAI, stated, "By bridging the digital divide, the 5G spectrum auctions will ensure that even the most remote areas of our country gain access to high-speed internet, thereby fostering greater economic opportunities and social advancement. The auctions also symbolize our commitment to 'Viksit Bharat'."
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