India's biggest ever sale of mobile airwaves wraps up in five days with a muted response leaving 60% of airwaves unsold

The biggest ever spectrum auction has come to an end with govt receiving bids worth Rs 65,789 crore over the last five days, a mere 40 per cent of the total worth of spectrum that was placed on the block. Out of 2,354.55 MHz across seven bands put on offer only 964.80 MHz of spectrum was sold.

The premium 700MHz band was put on sale for the first time but there were no takers for the premium 700Mhz LTE band due to high pricing set by the govt and even the 900 Mhz band did no see any interest from the telecom operators. The 700MHz band alone was expected to fetch Rs 4 lakh crore for the government but now having left completely unsold it has had a huge impact on the govt’s revenue from the spectrum auction.

Vodafone was the most aggressive of the seven telecom operators including Airtel, Reliance Jio, Idea that participated in the spectrum auction. Vodafone's move was also expected as the company had recently received a fresh infusion of Rs. 47,700 crore equity investments from its parent firm. Vodafone India bid for a total of Rs 20,000 crore worth of spectrum. Current market leader Bharti Airtel spent Rs 14,244 crore for a total of 173.8 MHz airwaves across 2G, 3G, 4G bands i.e 1800/2100/2300 MHz bands, new entrant in the Telecom space, Reliance Jio too went for the same bands to boost its pan India presence and spent a total of Rs. 13,672 crore. Idea too increased its footprint all across the country by investing in spectrum worth Rs 12,798 crore.

The bidding activity took place only in few circles with interest continuing to be largely around 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz that is mainly used for providing 4G services. Industry also bid for spectrum in 2100 Mhz (3G/4G) band, 2500 Mhz (4G) band and 800 Mhz (2G/4G) bands.

With all telecom operators concentrating on filling the gaps in their network and cautiously investing in spectrum the govt could only sell 40% of the spectrum put on auction, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said "The total upfront payment to the government is about Rs 32,000 crore which is the highest in the last five years. Wherever operators wanted to improve their data services, they participated. Total, we could sell 964.80 MHz of spectrum"

Around 60 per cent of mobile airwaves in value terms remained unsold in what was sold as the country's largest spectrum auction where Rs 5.63 lakh crore worth of spectrum was put up for sale.

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