Indian telecom firms bid $19 billion in 5G auction

Telecom operators in India bid slightly over $19 billion in the government auction for the 5G airwaves, the highest from them in any spectrum sale, as the world’s second-largest wireless market readies the rollout of improved and faster voice and data speeds.

Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea aggressively competed with one another for seven days and made majority of the bids, which the government said exceeded its expectations. Tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s Jio, which counts Google and Meta among its backers, was the most aggressive bidder, a person familiar with the matter said. The final tally is ongoing and results are expected to be shared later today.

Even as India is the second largest wireless market, it has been slow in comparison to several markets in setting up the networks for the rollout of 5G technology, which carriers across the globe say offer significantly faster data speeds and could play an instrumental role in applications around innovations in autonomous mobility and telemedicines and robotics among other industries.

The lure of faster speeds is likely to help telecom operators struggling with declining revenues in recent years persuade consumers to pay more for data, analysts say.

India said it expects the rollout of 5G networks to begin from October and hopes that residents in several key cities will be able to experience the faster internet experience by end of the year. Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said last week that the government expects to complete the allocation in August.

Anticipating the rollout, phonemakers have been selling handsets capable of supporting 5G network in India for nearly two years. In fact, they have shipped over 50 million 5G-compatible smartphones in the South Asian market, a fifth of which arrived in the quarter that ended in June this year, according to research firm Counterpoint. India is also the world’s second largest smartphone market and one of the fastest growing.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

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