Day 1 of India’s 5G spectrum auction sees bidding worth $18.2 billion, exceeds govt estimates

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The first day of India’s biggest spectrum auction for 72 GHz (gigahertz) airwaves ended with four major telecom firms committing a total of Rs 1.45 trillion ($18.2 billion) for 5G airwaves.

Telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Tuesday said the bid amount exceeded the government’s estimates and added that the auction saw healthy participation between Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, Sunil Mittal’s Airtel, Vodafone-Idea, and a unit of Gautam Adani’s flagship Adani Enterprises.

The previous high was Rs 1.09 trillion that the government received in 2015 when it auctioned 4G airwaves and other bands.

In the first-day auction, the operators have committed to buy 48.3 GHz out of the total 72 GHz spectrum available.

Several frequency bands were put up for auction, ranging from low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz), mid (3300 MHz), to high (26 GHz). Among them, the 5G bands 3300 MHz and 26 GHz bands attracted strong bids.

Two bands – 600 MHz and 2,300 MHz – saw zero bids.

Four rounds of bidding took place with the first round starting at 10 am and the last ending at 6 pm on Tuesday. The fifth round of the auction will begin on Wednesday.

According to PTI news agency, the number of days the 5G spectrum auction stretches to will depend on the actual demand for radiowaves and the strategy of individual bidders, although the broad industry consensus is that it may last up to two days.

Minister Vaishnaw said the government is expecting to allocate the spectrum in record time so that the 5G services rollout in some Indian cities by September or October. He said that the target is to allocate the spectrum by August 14.

(With inputs from agencies)

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