The bidding and acquisition of spectrum is over but the availability of spectrum acquired remains subject to multiple factors. When DoT released the frequency assignment with the provisional results, it was clear that the spectrum blocks acquired would not be available straight away in all spectrum bands. We at OnlyTech have been closely examining the frequency assigned with the date of availability of respective spectrum blocks to figure out which spectrum blocks acquired will be subject to delayed availability.
For ease of understanding, we have mentioned the spectrum block number assigned by DoT prior to the auction instead of the uplink and downlink frequency of each spectrum block that has been assigned to respective bidders.
Notably, the provisional results are subject to approval by the Government which reserves the right to change the frequency assignment at any point over the duration of the relevant licenses for harmonising bands and promoting spectrum efficiency.
The administrative spectrum expiring in 2021 and put up for auction was not contiguous with the liberalised spectrum and the newly acquired spectrum will be likely used in combination with the existing liberalised spectrum of bidders in the same band as one contiguous chunk that will require harmonization.
Payment Terms and Frequency Assignment
Bidders have to submit the payment of successful bid amount within 10 working days of the issue of demand note by DoT. One can either go for full upfront payment of final price or go for deferred payment with 50% upfront payment in 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 2300 MHz bands and 25% upfront payment in 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands of the final bid amount within 10 working days of issue of demand notice by WPF wing of DoT.
The spectrum available at a later date to be assigned beyond one month of the close of auction that required 25%/50% upfront payment payable at the time of auction completion shall be 10% of the bid amount for sub-1 GHz bands and 20% of the bid amount for other bands with balance component of upfront payment to be made one month prior to the assignment of frequency.
As per terms of the spectrum auction, the deferred payments have to be made over a period of 18 years (2-year moratorium plus 16 year repayment period), with interest computed at 7.3% per annum. Bidders who fail to submit successful bid amount i.e full amount or upfront payment amount in case of deferred payment option with 10 calendar days of the issue of demand notice by DoT stand to have their EMD fortified.
The validity period of the spectrum acquired will be from the 31st day of receipt of upfront payment or the date of the Frequency Assignment letter, whichever is earlier. The Frequency Assignment letter specifying the frequencies of the successful bidder will be issued by the WPC Wing of DoT within 30 calendar days from the date of receipt of upfront payment or full payment.
The spectrum in 800, 900, and 1800 MHz bands being released due to expiry of licenses will be available the next day of the date of expiry of the existing licenses in respective LSAs.
800 MHz Band
In the 800 MHz band, Bharti Airtel will be able to lay its hands on acquired spectrum immediately after completing the formalities. Reliance Jio will however have to wait to get hold on the acquired spectrum in multiple circles. Although Jio is already using this spectrum through its sharing deal with Rcom and in July only the ownership of the spectrum will change.
Jio will get bits and pieces of 800 MHz band in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Punjab, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West), and West Bengal circles immediately post completion of formalities whereas the remaining bits and pieces will be available on 20th July 2021.
900 MHz Band
The spectrum acquired by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea will be available to both of them immediately once they formalities are over in most of the circles. However, in Gujarat and North East Bharti Airtel will have to wait to get its hands on 1.2 MHz spectrum each until September 2021.
For the unversed, DoT in January 2021 increased the airwaves put to auction in 900 MHz and 1800 MHz post the surrendering of 58.8 MHz spectrum in 900 MHz and 1800 MHz band by BSNL and MTNL. These spectrum blocks with delayed availability are probably the ones surrendered by BSNL-MTNL.
1800 MHz Band
This spectrum band is the trickiest of the lot when it comes to spectrum availability for bidders who acquired spectrum in this auction. Spectrum will again be available in bits and pieces across different circles at different times for bidders. Ranging from 1st September 2021 or 26th or 28th September 2021 and elsewhere 5th October 2021.
The anomaly being Tamil Nadu circle wherein bidders will get the allocated frequency carriers in two parts at different points of time for two different regions within the same circle. For the uninformed, spectrum blocks put to auction in 900 MHz and 1800 MHz band were available in either erstwhile Tamil Nadu or Chennai service area w.e.f. different dates. The same blocks will be assigned partially i.e. in only one part of the service area till its availability in the other part of the LSA.
Chennai LSA and Tamil Nadu (excluding Chennai) were earlier two separate LSAs as defined in UAS license which were merged to make a single LSA named Tamil Nadu LSA.
2100 MHz Band
The spectrum acquired in 2100 MHz in Assam, North East, and West Bengal will be immediately available to Bharti Airtel post completion of necessary formalities.
2300 MHz Band
The spectrum acquired in 2300 MHz band by Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel will be available to both the bidders immediately post completion of necessary formalities.