Eight Indian operators, including incumbent Bharti Airtel and disruptive pan-India 4G start-up Reliance Jio Infocomm, have applied to take part in an auction for new 900-MHz and 1800-MHz spectrum.
The entry of Reliance Jio, a unit of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, is expected to stimulate intense bidding during the auction, according to the Economic Times.
Reliance Jio is the only Indian operator with licenses to offer 4G services in all 22 of the nation's telecom circles. The company has been busy arranging network sharing deals to support its LTE ambitions, but has yet to launch services.
Securing access to additional 900-MHz and 1800-MHz spectrum would potentially allow Reliance Jio to offer 2G and 3G services as well as 4G.
Idea Cellular and Vodafone India are also participating in the auction. For operators including Bharti and Vodafone, the auction represents a chance to replace spectrum licenses in key cities that are due to expire soon.
This auction will mark the government's third attempt to reallocate the spectrum freed by the cancellation of 122 telecom licenses in 2010.
The previous two auctions were unsuccessful due in part to high reserve prices, but the surprise presence of Reliance Jio and the prospect of the expiring licenses mean circumstances are different this time around.