The much-awaited Telecom Spectrum Auction 2021 will be taking place later today. The top three telcos- Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are confirmed to place their bids. On the one hand, we have Reliance Jio which is expected to go aggressive in the spectrum auction because the telco's liberalised spectrum in the 850 MHz frequency band is set to expire this year across several circles. The liberalised spectrum of Reliance Communications (RCom) owned by Reliance Jio is also set to expire in various circles. This essentially means the Mukesh Ambani-led telco will be going all out in the spectrum auction so that it can continue providing services without any disruption. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are also confirmed to be the bidders in this auction, however, they will be largely acquiring airwaves to strengthen the network.
What to Expect from Reliance Jio at Spectrum Auction 2021
India did not have spectrum auctions for more than four years now and the Spectrum Auction 2021 is really crucial, especially for Reliance Jio. While all the telcos will be looking to renew their spectrum that will start expiring from July 2021, Reliance Jio is in dire need of spectrum to deliver uninterrupted services.
Jio's liberalised spectrum is set to expire across Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kolkata, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Rajasthan, UP East, UP West and West Bengal, from July 2021. Besides, RCom's liberalised spectrum, which is being used by Reliance Jio on a spectrum sharing basis, is also expiring across Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Mumbai, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and UP East.
Jio is the country's largest telecom operator with over 410 million subscribers. In this auction, we will see Jio bidding for the 800 MHz band to continue providing 4G services. However, the telco might also bid for spectrum in 900 MHz and 700 MHz bands. DoT recently said that Jio is a pre-qualified bidder for Spectrum Auction 2021 with an EMD (earnest money deposit) of Rs 10,000 crore.
What to Expect from Bharti Airtel at Spectrum Auction 2021
Moving on, we have Bharti Airtel which may not take active participation in the Spectrum Auction 2021. The country' second-largest telecom operator has enough spectrum as a backup in the 1800 MHz band to provide services to 2G customers. Airtel might bid for sub-GHz spectrum in the 2300 MHz band, which will be crucial for the telco's 5G rollout plans. Airtel may also bid for some airwaves in 900 MHz & 2100 MHz.
What to Expect from Vodafone Idea at Spectrum Auction 2021
Lastly, we have the financially struggling telco Vodafone Idea which is possibly the strong telco amongst the private telcos when it comes to spectrum backup. Similar to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea may also give the 1800 MHz band a miss in this spectrum auction thanks to the spectrum backup it is having right now. Furthermore, Vi is currently refarming the 3G spectrum for 4G across all the circles which could also lead to the telco giving this auction a miss.
But, Vodafone Idea will likely bid for additional capacity in the 2300 MHz band in key cities to boost the network coverage. Vi might aim at acquiring some sub-GHz spectrum in key circles like Kerala, UP West, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.