Reliance Jio Infocomm has made an earnest money deposit of ₹14,000 crore for the upcoming auction of 5G spectrum, as per the government data released on Monday. The amount is manifold higher than that paid by other pre-qualified bidders — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and the wild card, Adani Data Networks, indicating the Mukesh Ambani-led telecom operator’s intention to dominate the spectrum sale.
As per details shared by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Bharti Airtel has forked over the second highest amount as earnest money deposit (EMD) at ₹5,500 crore, which is a little under 40% of the amount paid by its biggest competitor, Jio. Embattled Vodafone Idea has furnished an EMD of ₹2,200 crore, despite a net worth of negative ₹80,918 crore.
Adani Data Networks, the network service provider arm of Adani Group, has submitted ₹100 crore as EMD with the telecom department. All four pre-qualified bidders can bid in any band in any LSA (subject to EPs/EMD/spectrum cap), the DoT statement reads.
However, with the smallest earnest money deposit, it is likely that the Adani Group arm will bid for low-priced spectrum during the 5G auction. Being a new entrant to the sector, Adani Data Networks has received a letter of intent, dated June 28, 2022, by the DoT for grant of unified licence with authorisation of ILD (national area), and ISP-B for Gujarat circle.
Based on their deposits, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Adani Data Networks have been allocated 1,59,830, 66,330, 29,370, and 1,650 points, respectively.
The EMD amount paid by pre-qualified bidders of spectrum auctions is an indication of their strategy and appetite for picking up spectrum during the auction. It also determines the eligibility points allocated to telcos participating in the spectrum auction, through which they target a certain amount of spectrum in a given telecom circle.
Earlier this month, the DoT had released the names of four applicants willing to participate in the upcoming 5G auction, which is scheduled to be completed by July-end. The spectrum sale will see 72,097.85 MHz of spectrum going under the hammer in the low frequency bands of 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, mid frequency band of 3300 MHz, and high frequency band of 26 GHz. The spectrum will be allocated with a validity of 20 years.
The DoT had granted permission to Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone India and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) to conduct 5G technology trials, the telecom ministry had told the Rajya Sabha during Budget session earlier this year.
As of now, Airtel and Vodafone Idea are testing 5G gear in collaboration with telecom equipment makers Ericsson and Nokia. Meanwhile, Samsung has joined hands with Reliance Jio to test 5G networks.