Spectrum auction enters sixth day of bidding; garners nearly Rs 1.50 lakh crore so far

New Delhi: The auction of the 5G spectrum capable of offering ultra-high-speed internet entered the sixth day of bidding on Sunday after receiving bids worth 1,49,966 crore in the first five days from players like Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

The bidding resumed on Sunday morning with the 31st round, and the subsequent round is currently underway, sources said.

The pitched battle in Uttar Pradesh East circle - where demand for 1800 MHz had peaked since Wednesday - seems to be cooling off now, indicating that the auctions may be entering the final leg, according to industry sources.

That said, much would depend on how the bidding progresses through the day, they added.

As of Saturday, the total value of bids in the telecom spectrum auction had come within the striking distance of the Rs 1.50 lakh crore mark.

"The 5G auction shows that the industry wants to expand. It has come out of problems and is getting into a growth phase. The auction results are very good, close to Rs 1,49,966 crore has been committed by the industry for buying the spectrum," Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said at a briefing in Mumbai, after a telecom investors' roundtable on Saturday.

The minister observed that the auction and its "good response" underlines the industry's maturity.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio, Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and a unit of billionaire Gautam Adani's flagship Adani Enterprises are in the race to bid for the 5G spectrum, which offers speeds about 10 times faster than 4G, lag-free connectivity and can enable billions of connected devices to share data in real-time.

Besides powering ultra-low latency connections, which allow downloading full-length high-quality video or movie to a mobile device in a matter of seconds (even in crowded areas), the Fifth Generation or 5G would enable solutions such as e-health, connected vehicles, more-immersive augmented reality and metaverse experiences, life-saving use cases, and advanced mobile cloud gaming, among others.

The reserve price fixed for spectrum is a "fair number" and the same is visible from the auction outcome, the minister had asserted.

Incrementally, Rs 111-112 crore came in on Saturday, the provisional proceeds rising from the Rs 1,49,855 crore received till Friday from players, such as Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

Notably, the demand in Uttar Pradesh East, after surpassing the available quantum for three straight days since Wednesday, fell below supply levels on Saturday.

Earlier, the demand was for 75 blocks against the supply of 54 blocks, experts said, adding that by Saturday evening, the demand was for 50 blocks, four less than the supply in the circle.

Seven fresh rounds were conducted on Saturday, and bidding spilled over to Sunday (a departure from the past when bidding has typically taken place between Monday and Saturday). Up until Friday, about 71 per cent of the total spectrum put on the block had been provisionally sold.

After a flying start on Tuesday that saw players pouring in Rs 1.45 lakh crore on the first day, the numbers moved up only incrementally over Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as Jio and Airtel engaged in intense bidding in Uttar Pradesh East circle for 1800 MHz band.

In all, 72 GHz (gigahertz) of radiowaves worth at least Rs 4.3 lakh crore is on the block.

The auction is being held for spectrum in various low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz), mid (3300 MHz) and high (26 GHz) frequency bands.

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