India started its biggest ever telecoms airwaves auction on Saturday, receiving 535.31 billion rupees ($8.04 billion) worth of bids on the first day of the sale, a senior government official said.
Market leaders Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone’s local unit and Idea Cellular Ltd are pitted against new entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd in the battle for airwaves to boost their high-speed data services in what is the world’s second-biggest market by mobile phone subscriptions.
The total value of the airwaves put on the block is estimated to be worth $84 billion based on the auction reserve price set by the government, although industry executives and analysts expect only part of it to be sold.
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Data released by the government’s Department of Telecom (DoT) at the end of five rounds of bidding on Saturday showed carriers stayed away from the most-efficient, yet pricey, 700 megahertz (MHz) band of airwaves.
The 1800 MHz band of airwaves that can also do 4G and are available at less than a quarter of the price of the 700 MHz band saw higher bidding.
The DoT will not release carrier-specific bidding data until the end of the auction. Bidding resumes on Monday.