Centre drags out 5G auction
The 5G spectrum auction crawled along on Thursday as it received a paltry Rs 169 crore in additional bids but the government has stretched the exercise at least by another day.
Telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Thursday said 16 rounds of bidding have been completed in three days and the auction will continue on Friday.
Bids worth Rs 1,49,623 crore have been received at the end of the third day, the minister said.This is marginally higher than Rs 1,49,454 crore-worth bids received at the end of the ninth round on Wednesday, the second day of the auction.On July 26, the first day of the auction, bids worth Rs 1.45 lakh crore were received.
The continued interest in the bidding has raised questions on whether the revival plan of BSNL has injected a new competitive element to the auction.But it isn’t immediately clear if this will play out.The expectation is that BSNL could be allotted 5G spectrum — it never participates in an auction — but there isn’t enough “use case” traction for 5G in the country and it is hard to say whether BSNL will be able to exploit it when others struggle.
Analysts said the state-owned telecom player is a marginal player with a 10 per cent market share and would have to roll out the 4G services over the next two years with the revival package and after that it would be allocated the 5G spectrum.By that time, the private players with first mover advantage would have garnered enough market share.
Vaishnaw announcing the revival plan had stated that 4G would continue to be the mainstay for the foreseeable future, clearly indicating that BSNL would continue to focus on 4G for a sizable time period as it has the speed to meet the demands of consumers.This indicated that the ailing PSU would not be focussing on the enterprise segment,which is the main business case for 5G.
The data sheet of the third day of bidding showed that Uttar Pradesh (East) drew most of the bids and has surpassed the reserve price, analysts said. Jio and Airtel were involved in intense bidding in that circle.They said it is intriguing why that circle was witnessing such high interest. The telcos would have mopped out spectrum licence which was ending in 2022 in the last year’s auction.
Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and Gautam Adani are vying to buy the 5G airwaves. According to analysts, Reliance Jio may be the most aggressive of those in the race.Interestingly, since the 2010 radio wave auction thrice the biddings have not gone beyond the second day. In 2016, the bidding continued for five days. In 2010, the bidding lasted for 34 days, the longest so far.