India mobile leader Reliance Jio emerges as top bidder winning $11 billion in spectrum as India concludes 5G auction and prepares to launch services
Reliance Jio Infocomm has emerged as the the biggest spender in India’s 5G spectrum auction, spending more than $11 billion (£9bn) out of a total of $19bn, or 1.5tn rupees, in bids as the world’s second-largest mobile market prepares to launch next-generation services.
The auction advances the government’s plans to begin launching 5G services by October of this year.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea were the second and third-biggest bidders, winning spectrum worth $5.4bn and $2.4bn, respectively.
Surprise entrant Adani Data Networks purchased spectrum across six Indian states worth nearly $27m in its first spectrum auction, as it plans to launch private 5G services, rather than offering services on the consumer market.
The company is a unit of Adani Enterprises, in turn part of the conglomerate Adani Group, which has operations ranging from mining to airports and is headed by Gautam Adani, who in February became Asia’s richest person and is the fourth-richest person in the world.
India’s telecoms minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said companies bought 71 percent of a total of 72 GHz of spectrum offered at the auction, which began on 26 July and concluded on Monday.
“We understand that the spectrum purchased is good enough to cover all the circles in the country,” Vaishnaw said at a press conference, referring to geographical coverage.
He added that 5G coverage would be “very good” over the next three years.
The government is allowing telcos to pay for the spectrum in 20 equal annual installments over the course of the 20-year tenure as they seek to return to profitability following a price war that began in 2016 with Jio’s entry into the market.
Jio said it would be ready for a rollout of 5G across India “in the shortest period of time” without giving a specific timetable.
5G is considered key to a range of next-generation technologies such as self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.