ICRA, Telecom News, ET Telecom

New Delhi: The results of telecom spectrum auctions, that grossed over Rs 77,800 crore, have “exceeded” initial estimates, ICRA said on Tuesday. While the value of sales was just 19 per cent of the value of total spectrum on offer, the debt levels of the industry are expected to rise further, post the auctions, and the debt protection metrics would continue to remain weak despite improvement in operating metrics, it said.

Commenting on the telecom spectrum auctions, Ankit Jain, Assistant Vice-President, ICRA, said that the outcome exceeded earlier estimates and have fetched the exchequer around Rs 77,800 crore of which around Rs 28,000 crore will have to be paid upfront.

“The telcos not only bid for renewals of the expiring spectrum but focused on consolidating their spectrum holdings in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 2300 MHz bands. While the sub-GHz bands will be crucial for 5G technology deployment going forward as well as improvement of indoor coverage, the appetite for 2300 MHz band stems from the rising mobile broadband usage and thus the need for improving network capacity,” ICRA said.

While there was no interest in the 700 MHz band this time around too, 2100 MHz band witnessed “muted” participation.

“Spectrum acquisition for bolstering the data capabilities remained the theme of these auctions. While the value of total spectrum sold is only 19 per cent of the total value of spectrum on offer, post the auctions, the debt levels of the industry would increase further to around Rs 5 lakh crore as on March 31, 2022 and despite the improvement in the operating metrics, the debt protection metrics will continue to remain weak,” ICRA added.

India’s first auction of telecom spectrum in five years ended on Tuesday with Rs 77,814.80 crore of airwaves being acquired by telcos, mostly by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio which picked up spectrum for Rs 57,122.65 crore.

Jio cornered more than half of the telecom spectrum that was finally auctioned by the government over two days, offering about Rs 57,123 crore to consolidate its holding of the scarce resource that are used to carry mobile call and data signals.

Jio acquired 488.35 MHz spectrum in bands such as 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz.

Telecom czar Bharti Airtel bid about Rs 18,699 crore to pick up 355.45 megahertz (MHz) out of the total 855.60 MHz of radiofrequency acquired by all telcos, giving it “most formidable” spectrum holding in the country.

Vodafone Idea Ltd, which is facing a huge liability of unpaid statutory dues of past, bought 11.80 MHz of spectrum worth Rs 1,993.40 crore.

Briefing reporters, Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash said of the total Rs 77,814 crore garnered in the auctions, nearly 50 per cent came from sale of spectrum in 800 MHz, followed by 24 per cent (1800 MHz band), 17 per cent (2300 MHz band), and 10 per cent (900 MHz band).

Giving operator-wise breakup, Prakash said a total 488.35 MHz spectrum acquired by Reliance Jio in these auctions, included 800 band (133.75 MHz), 2300 band (280 MHz), and 1800 band (74.6 MHz).

Bharti has acquired spectrum in 2300 band (220 MHz), 1800 band (71.6 MHz), 900 band (32.6 MHz), 800 band (16.25 MHz), and 2100 band (15 MHz). Vodafone Idea bought 5.8 MHz in 900 band and 6.0 MHz in 1800 band.

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