India’s 5G Spectrum Auction Begins; Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone Idea in Race to Bid for 5G Airwaves

India’s biggest-ever auction of spectrum that carries telephone and internet data signals, began on Tuesday with a total of 72 GHz (gigahertz) of 5G airwaves worth Rs. 4,30,000 crore on offer. Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and a unit of billionaire Gautam Adani’s flagship Adani Enterprises are in the race to bid for 5G spectrum, that offers ultra-high speeds (about 10 times faster than 4G), lag-free connectivity, and can enable billions of connected devices to share data in real-time.

In addition to powering ultra-low latency connections, which allow downloading full-length high-quality video or movie to a mobile device in a matter of seconds (even in crowded areas), Fifth Generation or 5G would enable solutions such as e-health, connected vehicles, more immersive augmented reality and metaverse experiences, life-saving use cases, and advanced mobile cloud gaming among others.

The auction is being held for spectrum in various low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz), mid (3300 MHz) and high (26 GHz) frequency bands.

The bidding which started at 10:00 hrs will continue till 18:00 hrs and will carry over into the next day, if there exists a demand for spectrum and bidders are putting in bids.

The number of days the auction ultimately 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.

Last week, it was reported that Reliance Jio Infocomm had submitted an earnest money deposit (EMD) of Rs. 14,000 crore ahead of its participation in the upcoming 5G auction, while Bharti Airtel has put in Rs. 5,500 crore. Vodafone Idea has put in an EMD of Rs. 2,200 crore.

According to the list of pre-qualified bidders posted on the telecom department’s website, the EMD amount of Adani Data Networks stands at Rs. 100 crore. With its EMD at Rs. 14,000 crore, the eligibility points assigned to Jio for the auction stand at 1,59,830, the highest in the list of four bidders.

Typically, EMD amounts give a broad indication of players’ appetite, strategy and plan for picking up spectrum in an auction. It also determines the eligibility points, through which telcos target specific amount of spectrum in a given circle.

The eligibility points allocated to Airtel are 66,330, while that of Vodafone Idea are 29,370. Adani Data Networks received eligibility points of 1,650, based on its deposit. The 5G spectrum auction is scheduled to start on July 26.

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