5G spectrum auction enters Day 4 as telcos up the game in Uttar Pradesh


The spectrum auction will now enter the fourth day as telcos are engaged in an unexpected competition to get airwaves used for both 2G and 4G services. The battle is playing out in just one circle— East. The total tally from the sale of airwaves has moved up marginally in the last two days and is still short of Rs 1.5 trillion.

At the end of day three and 16 rounds of bidding, there was no action in any frequency band other than 1800 MHz (used for 2G and 4G) in UP East.


While in other circles and frequency bands, bidding has happened at the reserve price set by the government, the country’s largest mobile telephony circle in terms of subscribers—UP East—has been the odd man out. In this circle, with more than 100 million mobile phone connections, the price of the spectrum has gone up from the base price of Rs 18.2 crore to Rs 22.72 crore a block. This has pushed up the government revenue by Rs 169 crore to touch a total of Rs 149,623 crore at the end of third day of auction.

UP East, which comprises important towns and districts such as Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Allahabad and Mirzapur, accounts for 8.8 per cent of the total mobile telephony subscriber base in the country, according to figures available with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Heavily mobile dependent, the region’s share of fixed phone connection is a mere 2.3 per cent of the pan India numbers.

A person aware of the development explained why the auction has carried on even when the crucial airwaves were bought on day one itself. ‘’What was on offer was 10.8 Mhz of 1800 spectrum or 54 blocks (of 0.2 MHz) with a price tag of Rs 982.8 crore at base price. But after no demand on the first day, telcos went into a bidding war, pushing up the price of the spectrum.

The tele-density of UP East is much lower than the all-India average, making it a promising market. It’s also has potential for keen competition: This is among the very few circles where industry leader Reliance Jio is in the second place in terms of subscribers, after Bharti Airtel. Jio is at 32.52 per cent subscriber market share, while Bharti is at 36.9 per cent. Vodafone Idea is far behind with less than 20 per cent market share and BSNL is stable at 10 per cent.

Currently, Bharti has the maximum spectrum in this band at 16 Mhz and analysts say it might be looking at hitting the 20 Mhz figure-which will give it an edge over the rivals. Reliance Jio, which has 10 MHz, might be wanting to go up by another 5MHz to close the gap with Bharti.


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