Airtel, Vodafone-Idea to renew their spectrum in sub-GHz 900MHz band soon

  • Airtel has hinted that depending upon the price it may go for 40MHz in few areas and at least 30MHz in each area in March
  • Bharti Airtel has 57MHz spectrum (eight circles) in 1,800MHz and 6.2MHz (one circle) in 900MHz, whereas Vi has 46.2MHz spectrum (eight circles) in 1,800MHz and 6.2MHz (one circle)

Amid much ruckus around the upcoming 5G auctions in India, ICICI securities have now stated that during the auctions, the operators are expected to align their spectrum portfolio, especially Bharti Airtel. In the coming fast-paced 5G ecosystem, spectrums within 1,800MHz and 2,300MHz band would play the pivotal role.

Bands in this range are also turning to be very popular among the telecom firms internationally for the deployment of 5G and it is also speculated that they would offer enhanced coverage when compared to C-band. In the coming renewal, Bharti Airtel has a 57MHz spectrum (eight circles) in 1,800MHz and 6.2MHz (one circle) in 900MHz.

Whereas, Vodafone-Idea on the other hand has a 46.2MHz spectrum (eight circles) in 1,800MHz and 6.2MHz (one circle) in 900MHz. According to telecom analysts, both Vi and Airtel have the highest spectrum bands in 1800MHz in the coming renewal, though Jio is planning to purchase more spectrums above the 1,800MHz range. The other operators would purchase the spectrum depending on a number of carriers and calculated investment in these circles.

A spokesperson of ICICI Securities said to ET Telecom, “We expect the auction to be aimed at beefing up spectrum holding in the 1,800/2,300MHz bands, which potentially can be ‘queen’ in 5G (‘king’ is the C-band). We see operators, particularly Bharti Airtel advancing its pawn (1,800/2,300MHz spectrums, these were ‘king’ in 4G!) for the bigger game in 5G. Bharti, which wants to have equal footing in 5G, may play by advancing its pawn for the bigger role of ‘queen’ in 5G deployment.”

There is a spectrum portfolio gap in the 2,300MHz and sub-GHz bands pointed by Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal. Airtel has hinted that depending upon the price it may go for 40MHz in few areas and at least 30MHz in each area in March. Analysts also said that both Vi and Airtel would renew their spectrum in the sub-GHz 900MHz, which is a critical band.

“This is emerging as a popular sub-GHz band for 5G rollout and should be of interest for each telco. However, the reserve prices look higher, and may not find any bidder. Ideally, Bharti should aim to own 700MHz spectrum for 5G rollout in the future,” added ICICI securities.

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