India to kick off new 5G spectrum auction on May 20

Operators seeking to buy 5G spectrum can apply until April 22

The government of India confirmed that the upcoming spectrum auction is slated to start on May 20, according to local press reports.

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) issued the notice inviting application (NIA), which outlines the rules of the process.

In the upcoming auction, 5G airwaves in 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 3.3 GHz and 26 GHz bands will be put up for sale.

Operators seeking to buy spectrum can apply until April 22. A mock spectrum auction will be carried out on May 13-14, according to the reports.

According to sources with knowledge of the matter, the auction will only draw a few bids from Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) for renewing their frequencies.

The permits of Bharti Airtel and Vi will expire in 2024 in some of India’s geographic circles. Airtel’s airwave renewals this year are in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands in the circles of J&K, Odisha, Bihar, UP-East, West Bengal and Assam. Vi faces spectrum renewals in West Bengal (900 MHz and 1800 MHz) and UP-West (900 MHz).

Earlier this year, the DoT confirmed it will not auction the 600 MHz band in the upcoming spectrum auction, as the body aims to conduct more studies to ensure there is no interference with satellite operations.

According to local newspaper The Economic Times, an official said that India wanted to be part of the countries offering IMT in 600 MHz, but that this was opposed by China.

The 600 MHz spectrum band was put on sale in the last auction in August 2022, but it remained unsold.

India completed its first 5G spectrum auction in July 2022. Reliance Jio walked away with the most spectrum, having spent $11 billion. Airtel won spectrum worth $5.4 billion, while Vodafone received spectrum worth $2.4 billion. Finally, Adani purchased spectrum worth approximately $27 million, which it will use to offer private 5G network services.

Local operator Reliance Jio Infocomm has already completed the rollout of 5G technology in India. Reliance Jio Infocomm has been rapidly expanding its 5G network using Standalone (SA) architecture since October 2022.

Meanwhile, rival telco Bharti Airtel previously said it was on track to cover the entire country with 5G technology by March 2024.

Airtel is currently using equipment from Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung to provide 5G services.

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