Dial 1800: Battle for UP (East) pushes 5G Auction to Day 4

Bids for 5G airwaves rose ₹169 crore on Thursday, even as a spirited battle for 1800 MHz in UP (East) and midband or C band (3.3-3.67 GHz) and high band (26 GHz) action ) spectrum across geographies unexpectedly pushed auctions to a fourth day.

The government netted 149,623 crore at the end of the 16th round on Thursday, with the incremental gains coming entirely from the price rise in UP(E).

Telcos had bid at 1,49,454 crore by the end of day two. The previous record of government collection of spectrum auctions was ₹ 1.09 lakh crore in 2015.

“The industry is committed to bringing services to rural areas,” Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told reporters. Unlike the first two days, Vaishnaw did not foresee the likely end date of the auctions.

An industry executive said bidding patterns showed that the intense battle that broke out Wednesday between Reliance Jio and…

in the key UP (East) circle has continued into the third day. (Vi) is also said to have put his hat in the ring, making the circle the only one to see bid prices rise on Thursday as well. The price for the band in the circle has risen to about ₹113.6 crore, about 25% higher than the base price of 91 crore.

Highest number of subscribers

“The data shows that all bids today were in 1800 MHz in the UP-East circle with both

and Vi will probably step on the gas to grab extra ether in this band (which is great for capacity and coverage) to fight Jio,” said a top industry executive who monitors bidding patterns.

These airwaves, he said, are vital, along with the mid-band, for the older carriers as they could face serious challenges in defending market share in UP (East) with Jio likely to hit the coveted 700MHz spectrum in this most densely populated market. Jio, which focuses on the big-bang pan-India 5G rollout, is the sole buyer of the 700MHz band, buying 10MHz across India, experts say.

East

UP (East) has the highest subscriber base in India at 101.54 million, nearly 10% of India’s total wireless subscriber base at the end of May, according to telecoms regulator data, the most recent available, making it a very lucrative circle.

Airtel has the highest subscriber base in this circle with 37.46 million users, followed by Jio with 32.92 million users, Vi with 20.23 million and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) with 10.91 million. However, Jio has the highest market share (RMS) at 48.2%, with Airtel a close second at 39.9% and Vi far behind at 9.4%.

1800 MHz spectrum was also in demand in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Orissa and Rajasthan circles. There was also demand for the C band and the high band over circles. But prices didn’t move across any of these bands and circles because there was an oversupply.

Two circles – Assam and J&K – also saw demand for the 900 MHz band, while there were some buyers for the 2100 MHz band in the service areas of Delhi, Gujarat and Karnataka. The 2500 MHz band only saw demand in AP.

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