India’s spectrum auction for 2024 concluded on Wednesday with the government netting 11,300 crore from selling airwaves across bands, according to officials aware of the matter.

Bharti Airtel Ltd was the largest buyer of spectrum, winning bids in more than six circles where it was set to renew its spectrum holding.

“Auctions have concluded… Winning bidders are on expected lines since not much has changed since yesterday,” said one of the officials, asking not to be named.

The first spectrum sale in two years wrapped up swiftly with just over 150 Mhz of airwaves sold across seven rounds of bidding, against the 10,523.2 Mhz of spectrum worth 96,320 crore that the government had put up for sale. 

Analysts expect about 17% of the spectrum value to be sold this year, which could be the lowest in any auction since 2014.

While revenue from spectrum sale was not separately stated in the interim budget for 2024-25, the overall revenue from telecom sector is estimated at 1.2 trillion in the ongoing financial year.

A limited-sale year

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea Ltd had collectively submitted 4,350 crore as earnest money deposit allowing them to bid for 10-12 times the bid amount. 

Reliance Jio, India’s largest telecom firm, has deposited 3,000 crore, while Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea deposited 1,050 crore and 300 crore, respectively. 

Airtel and Vodafone Idea are bound to renew airwaves. Reliance Jio does not have to renew any spectrum. 

This year’s spectrum auction is expected to be limited in scale as compared with 2022, when 72,097.85 MHz of radio frequencies were sold for a record 1.5 trillion. 

That year, the government had put up 150,173 Mhz of airwaves on sale, including 5G spectrum for the first time, which led to record bidding.

Several bands go unsold

According to data issued by the department of telecommunications on Tuesday, bidding was seen in the 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz and 2100 Mhz bands, while no activity was seen in the 800 Mhz, 2500 Mhz, 26 Ghz and 3.3 Ghz bands.

Analysts tracking the auctions said the 900MHz band, where Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are present, saw demand in 11 out of 22 circles, with 35% of total available spectrum being won. 

In the 1800 Mhz band, there was broad-based demand across operators.

“In the 1800 Mhz band, 198 blocks were won in eight out of 22 circles (Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Kolkata, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, and West Bengal) and 18% of total available spectrum was won,” said analysts at Morgan Stanley. . “Further, within the 1800Mhz band, all three major operators have 25%-30% share in their existing footprint.”

In the 2100MHz band, one block was won in the UP-West circle, representing 4% of the total available spectrum in the auction.

HomeIndustryFirst spectrum auction in two years sees low demand, nets govt ₹11,300 cr

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