Seven weigh-in for spectrum auction

19 Sep 2016

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has received applications from seven cellcos to participate in the upcoming spectrum auction, but has yet to process or approve the applications. The market’s three largest operators, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have all submitted applications, as have Reliance Communications (RCOM) and Aircel, the pair having announced last week plans to merge their wireless operations. Disruptive newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL), meanwhile, has also thrown its hat into the ring, submitting the single largest deposit according to an unnamed official quoted by the Economic Times. The cellco has reportedly submitted an earnest money deposit (EMD) of INR65.0 billion (USD966.5 million), almost amounting to the combined total of the next three largest deposits, from Vodafone, Idea and Airtel, which entered EMDs of INR27.5 billion, INR20.5 billion and INR19.8 billion respectively. The final operator to register its interest in participating in the auction was Tata Teleservices (TTSL), although it is unlikely to be in a position to compete for the most sought-after spectrum bands. The operator’s main stakeholders, Tata Group and Japan’s DOCOMO are currently embroiled in a USD1.6 billion legal dispute over the latter’s exit from the company. Further, due to the firm’s financial difficulties, the watchdog restricted the cellco to only purchasing top-up spectrum in its existing operating areas in the March 2015 auction.

Neither of the state-owned firms, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) have entered applications, nor did Norwegian-owned Telenor India, which ruled out its participation earlier this year due to the high prices for spectrum.