Three days into the auction and bids for nationwide broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum are approaching the $1 billion mark.
According to the Department of Telecommunications, bids for pan-Indian BWA spectrum reached 41.98 billion rupee ($891.27 million) as of yesterday, compared with the reserve price of 17.5 billion rupee.
At the current price, the government would reap 122.96 billion rupee or $2.62 billion from sale of three BWA spectrum slots.
The government is selling two slots of 20MHz spectrum per service area or “circle” to private operators in the 2.3GHz band.
Government-owned operators BSNL and MTNL have already received 20MHz slices of spectrum in their 22 service areas.
Bidding is expected to be fierce for the BWA frequencies because of the country’s low fixed-line penetration, pent-up demand for high-speed mobile broadband services and the limited available radio real estate.
Eleven firms – including major cellcos Bharti Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Aircel - are competing for the BWA frequencies.
Tata Communications, Infotel, Spice Internet and US vendor Qualcomm – which intends to deploy TD-LTE, rather than Wimax - are also in the race.
Bids in Delhi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu were the most aggressive, ending at 4.53 billion rupee apiece.
India’s 3G auctions ended last week with bids tallying a massive $14.6 billion.
According to the Economic Times, the 3G winners – which include all of India’s biggest mobile players – have so far secured $7.6 billion in loans to help foot the 3G licensing bill, which is due by the end of the month.