Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio has emerged as the highest bidder in India’s 5G spectrum auction that has just concluded.
The telecom arm of Jio Platforms, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries (RIL), has won close to half of all the airwaves auctioned for $11 billion for 20 years.
Jio has acquired spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 1800MHz, 3300MHz, and 26GHz bands.
India plans to roll out 5G tech in October. It has so far auctioned 71% of the 72 GHz spectrum on offer.
Adani versus Ambani
The Adani group, the latest entrant in India’s 5G auction space, purchased airwaves worth nearly $27 million. However, it won’t go commercial and will use the airwaves privately.
“We are participating in the 5G spectrum auction to provide private network solutions along with enhanced cybersecurity in the airport, ports and logistics, power generation, transmission, distribution, and various manufacturing operations,” the group had said in July.
It bought spectrum in the 26 GHz band across Gujarat, Mumbai, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.
What about Airtel and Vi?
Jio’s rivals like Bharti Airtel and Vi (earlier Vodafone Idea) won spectrum worth $5.4 billion and $2.4 billion respectively.
“This spectrum acquisition...has been part of a deliberate strategy to buy the best spectrum assets at a substantially lower relative cost compared to our competition,” Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal said in a statement.
Airtel and Vi have been under pressure since Jio’s entry into the sector in 2016. A mere five years later, the Ambani firm had already carved out 35% of the market (pdf) for itself, bleeding rivals in the ruthless price war that has severely strained revenues even as it precipitated consolidation.
Vodafone India and the smaller Idea Cellular merged in 2017 while Bharti Airtel absorbed Tata Teleservices’ consumer mobile business in 2020.