India's first-ever auction for 5G spectrum entered the seventh day on Monday with players including Jio and Airtel being locked in an intense bidding for coveted 1800 Mhz frequencies mainly for the UP East circle.
The cumulative spectrum sale crossed the Rs 1.50 lakh crore milestone on the sixth day of bidding on Sunday.
The bidding price and demand for spectrum in the UP East circle flared up once again on Sunday, after the situation eased a bit on the previous day.
So far, in the six days of auction of the 5G spectrum capable of offering ultra-high-speed internet, bids worth Rs 1,50,130 crore have been received. Seven new rounds of bidding held on Sunday `dialled in' an incremental Rs 163 crore.
Monday marks the seventh day of auction, and the 38th round of bidding is currently underway.
Sources said that after a relative easing of demand on Saturday, the UP East circle., which includes Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, and Kanpur, saw bidding action picking up once again for 1800 MHz, a band primarily used by telcos for 4G services.
UP East - which has over 10 crore mobile subscribers - accounted for all of the incremental spectrum sales on Sunday, amid a pitched battle for radiowaves among players such as Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.
The all-out battle for spectrum in this band in the UP East market, pushed its auction prices to over Rs 160 crore per MHz against the reserve price of Rs 91 crore per MHz, breaching the base price levels of the 2021 auction (Rs 153 crore).
As of May, Reliance Jio had 3.29 crore mobile subscribers in UP East, Bharti Airtel (3.7 crore) and Vodafone Idea (2.02 crore).
The bidding intensity for the 1800 MHz band in Uttar Pradesh East circle had peaked between Wednesday and Friday, then subsided somewhat on Saturday. On Sunday, however, renewed interest was seen and demand flared once again outstripping the spectrum supply, sources said.
All the three private operators are said to be keen on topping up their holdings in this band in UP East, as radiowaves in 900 MHz band are not available.
The 2022 auction timelines would depend on how the bidding progresses through the day, and if any player relents.
Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had earlier said the 5G auction underscored that industry wants to expand and had entered a growth phase.
The reserve price fixed for spectrum is a "fair number" and the same is visible from the auction outcome, the minister had asserted.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio, Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and a unit of billionaire Gautam Adani's flagship Adani Enterprises are in the race to bid for the 5G spectrum, which offers speeds about 10 times faster than 4G, lag-free connectivity and can enable billions of connected devices to share data in real-time.
Besides powering ultra-low latency connections, which allow downloading full-length high-quality video or movie to a mobile device in a matter of seconds (even in crowded areas), the Fifth Generation or 5G would enable solutions such as e-health, connected vehicles, more-immersive augmented reality and metaverse experiences, life-saving use cases, and advanced mobile cloud gaming, among others.
Up until Friday, about 71 per cent of the total spectrum put on the block had been provisionally sold.
After a flying start on Tuesday that saw players pouring in Rs 1.45 lakh crore on the first day, the numbers have inched up incrementally since Wednesday, with players such as Jio and Airtel locked in intense bidding in Uttar Pradesh East circle for 1800 MHz band. This has stretched the auction duration beyond what was previously anticipated.
In all, 72 GHz (gigahertz) of radiowaves worth at least Rs 4.3 lakh crore is on the block in the 2022 auction. The auction is being held for spectrum in various low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz), mid (3300 MHz) and high (26 GHz) frequency bands.