India’s 5G spectrum auction draws bids of $19 billion entering 4th day

NEW DELHI : India had drawn bids totaling at least $19 billion entering the fourth day of an auction for 5G spectrum on Friday, as telecom giants clamoured for airwave rights needed for next generation networks in the world’s second largest mobile market.

Reliance Industries’ Jio, rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, as well as billionaire Gautam Adani’s Adani Enterprises Ltd were all among the bidders for 5G airwaves.

India government aims to begin the rollout of 5G – which it says can provide data speeds about 10 times faster than 4G – by September this year. 

Globally, the next generation network is seen as vital for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.

A total 72 GHz of radiowaves worth at least $54 billion is up for sale in India’s 5G auction.

The Indian government is yet to provide a breakup of bids made by individual players, but latest state-wise data shows 16 rounds of bidding had taken place by late Thursday evening.

The telcos are bidding aggressively in the auction despite earlier concerns that they stand to lose about 40 per cent in potential revenues due to the allotment of some airwaves to enterprises for private networks.

Jio, which counts global tech giants Facebook and Google among its backers, is expected to be the first carrier to launch 5G services in India.

Airtel and Vodafone have been under pressure following a price war triggered by Jio in 2016. Both have reported losses in recent years, burdened by previous spectrum dues to the government, though recent mobile data price hikes have slowly started helping Airtel to clock profits.

Adani said in early July that it does not plan to be in the consumer space and instead aims to provide solutions for private 5G networks.

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