The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) recently concluded the Spectrum Auction 2021 seeing 855.6 MHz spectrum of the total 2308.8 MHz put up for sale being acquired by Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea. While the main focus has been on the spectrum acquired by respective telecom operators, we at OnlyTech have been evaluating the spectrum that is set to expire before December 2021 against the spectrum that has been acquired in select spectrum bands.
What was at stake?
When the bidders went into auction, the trio had a cumulative total of 215.4 MHz of spectrum holding at stake that was set to expire up to December 2021. Reliance Jio and Reliance Communications have 37.5 MHz and 43.75 MHz spectrum expiring in 800 MHz band while Bharti Airtel has 6.2 MHz spectrum expiring in 900 MHz and 60.6 MHz spectrum expiring in 1800 MHz band. Vodafone Idea has 6.2 MHz spectrum expiring in the 900 MHz band and 52.4 MHz spectrum expiring in the 1800 MHz band.
What has been renewed?
Reliance Jio had the most at stake in the auction and turned out to be the most aggressive bidder. Reliance Jio bulked up in 800 MHz band in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal.
Reliance Jio has bulked up in all circles barring Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, North East, Uttar Pradesh (West), and Uttar Pradesh (East). In UP (E) and UP (W), it has simply renewed the existing 5 MHz spectrum holding that is expiring instead of bulking up in the 800 MHz band whereas in the other three circles it refrained from bidding for any spectrum in the 800 MHz band.
Reliance Jio also bagged a fresh 5 MHz block in Gujarat wherein it doesn’t have a spectrum sharing agreement with Reliance Communications apart from a fresh 5 MHz block in Bihar. The company went into the auction with 88.25 MHz spectrum including its own and Reliance Communications spectrum holdings about to expire before the year ends but came out with 133.75 MHz spectrum acquired giving it an added cushion of 45.5 MHz spectrum across multiple circles.
Bharti Airtel’s Gopal Vittal had expressed Airtel’s intent to have a sub-GHz footprint across pan India multiple times prior to the Spectrum Auction 2021. Bharti Airtel had a 6.2 MHz spectrum holding in 900 MHz band expiring in Chennai (excluding Tamil Nadu). Airtel has renewed only 5 MHz spectrum apart from new acquisitions in the sub-GHz band across multiple circles.
In the 1800 MHz band, Airtel had 60.6 MHz spectrum holding expiring this year. The company has renewed it’s expiring spectrum holdings only in certain circles namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (West). While Airtel acquired 70.6 MHz spectrum in the auction coming out with a cushion of 10 MHz spectrum, it has let go of spectrum in many circles.
In Tamil Nadu Airtel has bulked up in the 1800 MHz band with 15 MHz spectrum, in Kerala renewed 5 MHz, in Madhya Pradesh renewed 4.2 MHz, and in Uttar Pradesh (West) renewed 3 MHz spectrum.
Similar to Airtel, Vi has 6.2 MHz spectrum expiring in the 900 MHz band, of which it chose to renew only 5 MHz. The difference being Vi’s spectrum holding is in Tamil Nadu (excluding Chennai), unlike Airtel which has spectrum holding expiring in Chennai (excluding Tamil Nadu).
In the 1800 MHz band, Vi had 52.4 MHz spectrum expiring but chose to renew spectrum in bits and pieces in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh (East), and Uttar Pradesh (West) only. In Karnataka it has renewed 4 MHz, in UP (E) it has renewed 1.4 MHz, and in UP (W) it has renewed a paltry 0.6 MHz spectrum. Elsewhere including these three circles, it has decided to let go of spectrum amounting to 46.4 MHz.
What was lost?
In terms of Reliance Jio, nothing was lost. The company has renewed and bulked up in pretty much all the circles wherein it has spectrum holdings expiring. In fact, Jio’s spectrum footprint increased by 55% on the whole.
In terms of Bharti Airtel, the company is set to let go of 6.2 MHz each in Gujarat and Haryana, 1.2 MHz in Kerala, 2 MHz in Madhya Pradesh, 8.2 MHz in Maharashtra, 9.2 MHz in Mumbai, and 3.2 MHz in Uttar Pradesh (West) in the 1800 MHz band. In total, Bharti Airtel is set to let go of 36.2 MHz across these circles in the 1800 MHz band. Airtel’s 1800 MHz spectrum holdings on an overall basis are set to get a boost of 10 MHz.
The company has also let go of 1.2 MHz spectrum in the 900 MHz in Chennai (excluding Tamil Nadu). Bharti Airtel is letting go of 37.4 MHz spectrum but on an overall basis now has the crown for the largest spectrum footprint Pan India.
The biggest loser on the block is Vodafone Idea which was a mere bystander in the auction as it lost its bragging rights for having the strongest spectrum portfolio. Vi is set to lose 1.2 MHz in the 900 MHz band in Tamil Nadu (excluding Chennai). In the 1800 MHz band, Vi is letting go of 4.4 MHz in Andhra Pradesh, 8 MHz in Delhi, 4.4 MHz in Himachal Pradesh, 4 MHz in Karnataka, 6.2 MHz each in Punjab and Rajasthan, 8 MHz in Chennai (excluding Tamil Nadu), 1 MHz in Tamil Nadu (excluding Chennai), and 4.8 MHz in Uttar Pradesh (East).
Vi is set to lose a whopping 46.4 MHz in the 1800 MHz band across India and 1.2 MHz in the 900 MHz band. In total, a loss of 48.6 MHz in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands.