India’s Telecom Spectrum Auction 2021 is set to take place today, March 3, with the top three telcos- Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea almost confirmed to place their bids. On one hand, we have Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio which is expected to go all out in the spectrum auction due to the telco’s liberalized spectrum in the 850 MHz frequency band set to expire this year across several circles. The liberalized spectrum of Reliance Jio-owned Communications (RCom) is also set to expire in various circles. This essentially means that Reliance will have an aggressive approach in the spectrum auction so that it can continue providing services without any disruption. On the other hand, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are also confirmed to be the bidders in this auction, but their intent and aggression are not expected to be the same.
What to Expect from Reliance Jio
The Spectrum Auction 2021 is going to be really crucial for Reliance Jio as it is in dire need of spectrum to deliver uninterrupted services. Jio’s liberalized spectrum is set to expire across Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, UP East, UP West, and West Bengal, from July 2021. Besides, RCom’s liberalized spectrum, which Reliance Jio is using on a spectrum sharing basis, is also expiring across Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and UP East.
With over 410 million subscribers, Jio is the country’s largest telecom operator and in this auction, we will see it bidding for the 800 MHz bands to continue providing 4G services. However, it is predicted that the telco might also bid for spectrum in 900 MHz and 700 MHz bands. Department of Telecommunications (DoT) recently said that Jio is a pre-qualified bidder for Spectrum Auction 2021 with an EMD (earnest money deposit) of Rs 10,000 crore.
What to Expect from Bharti Airtel
Bharti Airtel may not take active participation in the Spectrum Auction 2021 considering that the country’s second-largest telecom operator has enough spectrum as a backup in the 1800 MHz band to provide 2G customers with uninterrupted services. We might see Airtel bid for some airwaves in 900 MHz & 2100 MHz and also for sub-GHz spectrum in the 2300 MHz band, which will be crucial for the telco’s 5G rollout plans.
What to Expect from Vodafone Idea
The financially struggling telco Vodafone Idea is possibly the strong telco amongst the private telcos when it comes to spectrum backup. Similar to Bharti Airtel, we predict Vodafone Idea to also miss out on the 1800 MHz band in this spectrum auction thanks to the spectrum backup it is having right now. Furthermore, what could also see Vi missing the auction is that it is currently refarming the 3G spectrum for 4G across all the circles.
But, Vi will likely bid for additional capacity in the 2300 MHz band in key cities to boost the network coverage in key circles like Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and UP West.