Idea Cellular biggest bidder in India spectrum auction

Following the Indian Supreme Court lifting its initial embargo on publishing results, Idea Cellular has emerged as the biggest bidder in the country’s latest 2G and 3G spectrum auction. After 19 days and 115 rounds of bidding, the Indian government managed to haul in a nice lot of cash at a record total of INR1.1 trillion ($17.5 billion).

Idea Cellular, India’s third largest operator with around 138 million subscribers, paid INR303.1 billion for spectrum in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands. The second highest bidder was the country’s biggest telco Bharti Airtel, which according to the Hindu, paid INR291.3 billion. In India, Bharti Airtel has over 222 million subscribers.

The third largest sum of INR258.1 billion was forked out by Vodafone India, India’s second biggest operator with some 179 million subs. “Vodafone has emerged from the auction in a stronger competitive position in the Indian market,” the operator said in a statement.

“In addition to buying spectrum in all its key circles [areas] that were under auction, Vodafone has acquired new 3G spectrum which will enable the company to increase further the number of Indian customers benefiting from high speed data services.”

Other winners included Reliance Communication, Tata Teleservices and newcomer Reliance Jio, which plans to launch later this year. All three acquired spectrum in the 800 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies. Norwegian Telenor was the only bidder ending up empty handed from the auction.

The Indian approximately 950-million subscriber market is engulfed in a bitter price war. Some analysts and operators have claimed aggressive bidding for spectrum will cause prices to hike but the country’s Minister of Telecommunications Ravi Shankar Prasad has denied this will be a problem, saying increases will be insignificant.

The full results of the auction are reported on the Indian Department of Telecommunications website.

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