India has finally taken the first step towards launching high-speed 5G telecom services. The auction of 5G spectrum ended on the seventh day after 40 rounds with the Union government getting bids worth ₹150,173 crore. This is almost double the ₹77,815 crore that the 4G auctions in 2021 generated. Of the 72,098MHz of the spectrum that was on offer, 51,236MHz amounting to 71% was sold.

But, was the auction really a success?

The government realised ₹1.5 lakh crore from the auction, which is just a shade over a third of the expected value of ₹4.3 lakh crore at the reserve price. If we go by bands, only Reliance Jio bid and acquired spectrum in the 700MHz band at the base price. This is the first time that spectrum in the 700MHz band was sold—after no shows by all operators in the auctions of 2016 and 2021. This time round Jio acquired 220MHz—10MHz in each of the 22 telecom circles. Yet, 550MHz of 700MHz band spectrum remained unsold, thanks to the high base price.

In the 3300MHz band, 5,490Mhz has been picked out of a total of 7260MHz on offer. In the 26GHz band, 45.35GHz was picked up out of the 62.7GHz on offer. Much of this has been due to the high reserve price, despite a 36% cut over the earlier price.

The three telecom service providers accounted for ₹149,946 crore or 99.84% of the spectrum sold. Reliance Jio led with bids for 24,470MHz of spectrum at Rs 88,078 crore followed by Bharti Airtel which bid for 19,868MHz at Rs 43,084 crore and Vodafone Idea (Rs 18,784). The Adani group accounted for the balance ₹227 crore.

Jio has acquired pan-India spectrum in the 700MHz; 3300MHz and 26GHz bands. Airtel acquired pan-India spectrum in the 3300MHz and 26GHz bands. The acquisition of 700MHz band spectrum could well be the big difference between Jio and the others in the immediate term.

The biggest acquisition of spectrum has happened in the 26GHz band where Jio acquired 22,000MHz—basically 1000MHz in each of the 22 circles. Airtel followed suit by acquiring 800MHz in each of the circles amounting to 17,600MHz nationally. While Jio acquired 2,440MHz of spectrum in the 3300MHz band, Airtel was close behind at 2200MHz.

While Jio acquired spectrum in the 700MHz/800MHz/1800MHz/3300MHz and 26GHz bands; Bharti Airtel acquired in the 900MHz/1800MHz/200MHz/3300MHz and 26GHz bands.

There have been no takers for 600, 800, and 2300 MHz with very little sold in 700, 900, 2100 and 2500 MHz.

The stage has now been set for the launch of 5G services. The big advantage this time round over the launch of 4G LTE services is that there are many 5G capable devices already with people. Over to ultra-fast telecom services!

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