GOI gained Rs.77,815 crore in telecom spectrum auction
In a two-day long telecom spectrum auction, the Government of India (GOI) got Rs.77,815 crore. Billionaire Mukesh Ambani‘s Jio cornered more than half of the telecom spectrum auctioned by the Government, offering about Rs.57,123 crore. Telecom giant Bharti Airtel bid Rs.18,699 crore to pick up 355.45 megahertz (MHz) out of the 855.60 MHz of radiofrequency, giving it “most formidable” spectrum holding in the country. Vodafone Idea Ltd, which is facing a huge liability of unpaid statutory dues of past, bought spectrum worth Rs.1,993.40 crore, Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash told reporters here.
Telecom secretary said that around 60 per cent of the spectrum offered was sold in the auction. The previous auction was in 2016. The auction of spectrum in India started after the mega scam known as the 2G scam broke out in 2008. The first auction was in 3G waves and BWA Spectrum which is now popularly called 4G in 2010. Supreme Court in the public interest petition filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan directed that all natural resources including Spectrum should be only allotted through auction. 2G scam led to the wave of the anti-corruption movement in India, leading to the collapse of the Congress lead governments across the country.
Reliance Jio said it acquired airwaves that are suitable for use with 5G technology while loss-making Vodafone Idea Ltd said it won 11.8 MHz spectrum in five zones.
From 2010 to the current auction of telecom waves, the Government treasury in total gained more than Rs.4.41 lakh crores. After the 2G Scam judgment, Supreme Court also ordered for auction of coal mines, which was allotted in dubious ways.
In the first auction of radio airwaves in five years (2016), the Government offered 2,308.80 MHz of spectrum in seven bands, at a reserve price of nearly Rs.4 lakh crore. However, airwaves in the premium 700 MHz and 2,500 MHz bands went unsold. The telecom secretary said 855.60 MHz of spectrum was bought for Rs.77,814.80 crore in the two-day auction.
Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd said it acquired the right to use spectrum in all 22 circles or zones across India. In all, it won 488.35 MHz of spectrum, taking up its spectrum footprint by 55 per cent to 1,717 MHz (uplink + downlink). Jio raced to become the leading telecom operator in the country within four years of launching services in 2016 offering free voice calls and data at dirt cheap prices.
Reliance Jio said it acquired airwaves that are suitable for use with 5G technology while loss-making Vodafone Idea Ltd said it won 11.8 MHz spectrum in five zones. Separately, Bharti Airtel said it won spectrum across sub GHz, mid-band and 2300 MHz bands, giving it a secured pan-India footprint that will help improve its deep indoor and in-building coverage in every urban town. Moreover, the spectrum will also help improve its coverage in villages, the statement noted.
Airtel pointed out that despite a large amount of spectrum made available, the 700 MHz band did not get any bid from the operators as it made “no economic case” for them due to the high reserve prices. About one-third of the spectrum auctioned was in the 700 MHz band, which was completely unsold during the 2016 auctions as well. This, analysts said, was mostly because operators are unlikely to diversify into a new spectrum band that would require incremental investment in equipment when other sub-GHz bands are available at lower prices.
[with PTI inputs]
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