After 19 days of furious bidding, India's latest spectrum auction has closed raising a record 1.1 trillion rupees ($17.6 billion).
The auction raised a third more than the government had expected, Reuters reported, citing telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Winning bidders will need to pay a quarter to a third of the total price immediately and the remainder by 2027.
During the auction, the government leased spectrum in the 800-MHz, 900-MHz, 1800-MHz and 2100-MHz bands.
Eight operators participated – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Jio Infotel, Reliance Communications, Uninor, Aircel and Tata Teleeservices.
Details of the final allocations have not been disclosed, but Airtel, Vodafone and Idea are expected to have picked up the largest share of the licenses on offer as they will need to replace expiring licenses in certain telecom circles.
The government had drawn criticism due to a decision to set a high reserve price for the 2100-MHz spectrum on offer, with the GSMA arguing that high auction prices could negatively impact the development of India's mobile infrastructure, resulting in higher prices and inferior services for consumers.
With various Indian operators already struggling with high debt burdens, the high auction prices are also expected to add to these woes.