Spectrum auction 2016 aftermath- Who paid what to stay relevant where?

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So the largest ever spectrum auction which had been the talk of the town concluded on Thursday, with the government being assured Rs.65,789 crore in revenue. Of the 2,355 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum put up for sale across seven bands, only 965 MHz or around 40% got sold. The much awaited auction saw just 31 rounds of bidding and concluded on the fifth day. We’ve updated our Pan India spectrum holding chart with the results of the October 2016 spectrum auction, which you can refer to for details.


So from Rcom losing its 2G spectrum in Gujarat circle to Tata coughing up a fortune to retain its own in Mumbai, we’ve witnessed it all. The purpose of this article is to outline which operator spent how much money in which circle to stay relevant in the ever increasing competition in the telecom sector. Let us first consider each band that was put up for sale individually.

700 (Band 28) and 900 MHz (Band 8) remained unsold :

The 700 MHz spectrum which the government made free after cable TV digitization, found no takers on account of its high base price. There was also no bidding for spectrum in the 900 Mhz band as the incumbents had already gathered enough spectrum in this band in the previous two auctions. The 700 MHz band itself was expected to go for a total of Rs 4 lakh crore had the entire amount that was put for sale been sold at floor price.

850 Mhz ( Band 5 ) :

In 850MHz band, 15MHz got sold out of the total 73.75 MHz put up for auction. Reliance Jio was the only operator which won airwaves in this band in four circles. Given below is the chart of the spectrum won in 850 MHz band along with the winning bid value.

CircleOperatorSpectrumWinning Price
GujaratJio5 Mhz1677.24 cr
PunjabJio3.75 Mhz512.58 cr
RajasthanJio5 Mhz1159.92 cr
UP EastJio1.25 Mhz289.98 cr

1800 Mhz ( Band 3 ) :

In 1800 MHz frequency band, 175 MHz out of the total 221 MHz put up for sale was sold. Mainly operators bought spectrum in this band to deploy 4G networks. Airtel bought the spectrum in 8 circles, Vodafone in 11 circles, Idea Cellular in 12 circles while new entrant Jio picked the airwaves in 8 circles. While Tata ended up spending a fortune in a bargain to retain its 2G operations in Mumbai, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh circles. Given below is the chart of the spectrum won in 1800 MHz band along with the winning bid value.

CircleOperatorSpectrumWinning Price
Andhra PradeshTata2.4 Mhz583.2 cr


Airtel3.8 Mhz152 cr
Idea5 Mhz200 cr
Vodafone8 Mhz320 cr


Aircel1.8 Mhz111.6 cr
Idea5 Mhz310 cr
Jio5 Mhz310 cr
DelhiVodafone2 Mhz798 cr
GujaratIdea8.4 Mhz1999.2 cr
Vodafone3 Mhz714 cr


Airtel1.6 Mhz79.88 cr
Idea4.8 Mhz236.64 cr
Jio1 Mhz49.3 cr
Himachal PradeshIdea0.6 Mhz9.6 cr
Jio5 Mhz80 cr

Jammu & Kashmir

Airtel2.4 Mhz31.2 cr
Idea5 Mhz65 cr
RCom5 Mhz65 cr
Jio10 Mhz130 cr
KeralaVodafone0.6 Mhz49.8 cr
KolkataAirtel2 Mhz302.3 cr
Vodafone2 Mhz302.3 cr
Madhya PradeshIdea4.6 MHz381.3 cr


Airtel5 Mhz1590 cr
Idea2 Mhz636 cr
Tata5 Mhz1590 cr
MumbaiTata5 Mhz2446 cr
North EastAirtel1.4 Mhz15.4 cr
Vodafone7.8 Mhz85.8 cr


Airtel0.8 Mhz61.6 cr
Idea2 Mhz154 cr
Jio5.2 Mhz400.4 cr
Vodafone3 Mhz231 cr


Airtel1.8 Mhz165.42 cr
Idea5 Mhz459.5 cr
Vodafone4.2 Mhz358.98 cr
UP EastJio3.4 MHz452.71 cr
Vodafone2 Mhz266.3 cr

UP West

Idea7.2 Mhz722.16 cr
Jio5 Mhz501.5 cr
Vodafone2.4 Mhz240.72 cr

West Bengal

Idea5 Mhz230 cr
Jio5 Mhz230 cr
Vodafone7.6 Mhz349.6 cr

2100 Mhz ( Band 1 ) :

In the 2100MHz band, 85 MHz out of 365 MHz put up for sale was sold. Airtel won spectrum in 5 circles including Kerala circle making it the first operator to achieve pan India 3G spectrum footprint. Vodafone picked the airwaves in 7 circles including 10 Mhz of spectrum in Tamilnadu, hinting that it might use it for FD-LTE. Third largest operator Idea Cellular won similar airwaves in 4 circles. Given below is the chart of the spectrum won in 2100 MHz band along with the winning bid value.

CircleOperatorSpectrumWinning Price
BiharAirtel5 Mhz430 cr
Idea5 Mhz430 cr
DelhiAirtel5 Mhz2770 cr
HaryanaVodafone5 Mhz275 cr
Jammu & KashmirAirtel5 Mhz55 cr
KeralaAirtel5 Mhz885 cr
MaharashtraVodafone5 Mhz1705 cr
MumbaiIdea5 Mhz2305 cr
OdishaVodafone5 Mhz190 cr
PunjabVodafone5 Mhz455 cr
RajasthanAirtel5 Mhz700 cr
Idea5 Mhz700 cr
Vodafone5 Mhz700 cr
Tamil NaduVodafone10 Mhz3440 cr
UP EastIdea5 Mhz550 cr
Vodafone5 Mhz550 cr

2300 Mhz ( Band 40 ) :

In 2300MHz band the entire 320 MHz that had been put on the block got sold. Pureplay 4G operator Jio added 10 Mhz of spectrum in 16 circles to augment its capacity and bring LTE Advanced networks in future. Market leader Airtel also bagged 10 Mhz in 13 circles. Birla owned Idea too added spectrum in their three key leadership markets of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Given below is the chart of the spectrum won in 2300 MHz band along with the winning bid value.

CircleOperatorSpectrumWinning Price
Andhra PradeshAirtel10 MHz683.4 cr
Jio10 MHz683.4 cr
AssamAirtel10 MHz20 cr
Jio10 MHz20 cr
BiharAirtel10 MHz61.5 cr
Jio10 MHz61.5 cr
DelhiAirtel10 MHz1430 cr
Jio10 MHz1430 cr
GujaratAirtel10 MHz611.88 cr
Jio10 MHz611.88 cr
Himachal PradeshAirtel10 MHz10 cr
Jio10 MHz10 cr
KarnatakaAirtel10 MHz980 cr
Jio10 MHz980 cr
KeralaIdea10 MHz175.67 cr
Jio10 MHz175.67 cr
KolkataAirtel10 MHz330 cr
Jio10 MHz330 cr
Madhya PradeshIdea10 MHz82 cr
Jio10 MHz82 cr
MaharashtraIdea10 MHz630.61 cr
Jio10 MHz630.61 cr
MumbaiAirtel10 MHz1460 cr
Jio10 MHz1460 cr
North EastAirtel10 MHz10 cr
Jio10 MHz10 cr
OdishaAirtel10 MHz40 cr
Jio10 MHz40 cr
Tamil NaduAirtel10 MHz1320 cr
Jio10 MHz1320 cr
West BengalAirtel10 MHz50 cr
Jio10 MHz50 cr

2500 MHz ( Band 41 ) :

In the 2500MHz band, 370 MHz out of 600MHz that had been put up for sale was sold. Idea Cellular picked airwaves in 16 circles while Vodafone bought the spectrum in 15 circles. Both operators plan to expand 4G LTE network in the coming months across the country. Given below is the chart of the spectrum won in 2500 MHz band along with the winning bid value.

CircleOperatorSpectrumWinning Price
Andhra PradeshIdea 10 Mhz 680 cr
AssamIdea10 Mhz 20 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz 20 cr
BiharIdea10 Mhz 60 cr
DelhiVodafone20 Mhz 2860 cr
GujaratIdea10 Mhz 390 cr
Vodafone20 Mhz 780 cr
HaryanaIdea10 Mhz 80 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz 80 cr
Himachal PradeshIdea10 Mhz 10 cr
Jammu and KashmirIdea 10 Mhz 10 cr
KeralaIdea10 Mhz 160.8 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz 160.8 cr
KolkataVodafone20 Mhz 660 cr
Madhya PradeshIdea20 Mhz 160 cr
MaharashtraIdea10 Mhz 580 cr
Vodafone20 Mhz 1160 cr
MumbaiVodafone20 Mhz 3380 cr
North East Idea10 Mhz 10 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz10 cr
OdishaIdea10 Mhz40 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz40 cr
PunjabVodafone10 Mhz210 cr
RajasthanIdea10 Mhz60 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz60 cr
UP EastIdea10 Mhz90 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz90 cr
UP WestIdea10 Mhz120 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz120 cr
West BengalIdea10 Mhz50 cr
Vodafone10 Mhz50 cr


So, what are the final damages to the operators’ balance sheets post the auction?

  •  Vodafone acquired 365.2 Mhz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2500 Mhz bands for a total worth of Rs. 20,280 crore.
  • Airtel acquired 173.8 Mhz of spectrum across the 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz bands for a total amount of Rs. 14,244 crore.
  • Jio acquired 269.2 MHz of spectrum across the 850 MHz, 1800 MHz and the 2300 MHz band, paying a total value of Rs. 13,672 crore.
  • Idea acquired 349.2 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 Mhz bands for a total of Rs. 12,798 crore.
  • Tata acquired 24.8 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band for a total cost of Rs. 4,619 crore.
  • Reliance acquired 10 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band for a total expenditure of Rs. 65 crore.
  • Aircel acquired 3.6 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band for a total price of  Rs. 112 crore.

Note: For calculating the total quantum of spectrum purchased by each operator, the uplink and downlink portions of paired spectrum have been added while the unpaired spectrum has been considered as is.


TT perspective:Although the government expected a huge revenue from the auction, due to high base price and immature device ecosystem, operators skipped 700 MHz band and filled in the gaps in their data spectrum portfolio by acquiring cheaper airwaves in 2300 and 2500 Mhz bands. While 3G is dying and operators are betting big on 4G thanks to Jio’s arrival in the market, we expect Idea and Vodafone to soon expand their 4G data network footprint.On the other hand, Airtel which now has Pan India 3G and 4G spectrum will focus on dual technology to meet data demand across the metro and rural markets. Jio currently seems to be best placed with the right mix of low frequency 850 MHz spectrum for coverage and high frequency 1800 and 2300 MHz airwaves for capacity. Also the cash rich backing of Reliance industries will ensure that the operator is able to invest on network infrastructure and expansion despite the auction expenditure.

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