Vodafone is estimated to have bought pan-India 4G spectrum worth around Rs 21,000 cr in the just-concluded spectrum auction — the largest India has seen.
The number also makes Vodafone the biggest spender at the 2016 slug-fest. The runner up is Bharti Airtel at a distant Rs 14,200 cr.
Though the final numbers and details are not out, the company’s numbers can be guessed by eliminating others from the total tally of around Rs 66,000 cr. The other big three participants — Reliance Jio, Airtel and Idea — account for about Rs 40,000 cr, leaving Rs 26,000 cr between Vodafone and smaller players like RCom, Aircel and Tata Teleservices.
UPDATE: Vodafone’s actual spectrum chart is below. For the story, click here.
Vodafone needed this spectrum to come in a 4G market where it has been pushed to a previously unthinkable No 5 in terms of network capacity.While Tata is expected to have spent substantial amounts — as much as Rs 5,000 cr worth — the other two are unlikely to have participated in a substantial way.
The leader among the 4G pack is Reliance Jio, followed by Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular. At No 4 was Reliance Communications-Aircel combo.
Vodafone had abstained from purchasing a lot of 4G spectrum in the past, assuming that the Indian market would remain dominated by 3G for some more years.
However, the entry of Reliance Jio has played spoilsport for the British company, which has had to redraw its plans due to the sudden rise of 4G technology and exploding popularity of LTE-enabled handsets in the country.
According to some estimates 75% of the high-speed smartphones being sold in the country today come with 4G and only 25% are 3G-only.
Given the superior efficiency of the newer technology, users are more likely to switch to an operator that offers LTE services than one that offers only 3G data services.
Vodafone has 4G capacity in around 10 circles out of a total of 22 in India, and is slightly behind Idea Cellular in this matter.
The company was therefore widely expected to try to bridge the ‘4G divide’ between itself and others using this auction.
It had initially tried to get its hands on the 2.3 GHz 4G band — which is used by both Airtel and Reliance Jio — but was repulsed by the other two through fervent bidding.
As such, Vodafone was forced to switch its activity to the 2.5 GHz band — which is not well supported by handsets in India right now.
However, the 2.5 GHz band is widely used for LTE services across the world and is likely to get support in Indian handsets very soon.