Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

India Targets $83 Billion Haul From Airwave Auction in September

India said it could raise as much as a record 5.56 trillion rupees ($83 billion) by auctioning mobile-phone airwaves later this year, about four times last year’s proceeds.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government plans to sell spectrum across seven wavelengths starting Sept. 29, India’s telecom Secretary J.S. Deepak told reporters in New Delhi on Monday. The estimates of the amount to be raised are based on reserve prices recommended by the nation’s telecom regulator, Deepak said. India raised 1.1 trillion rupees auctioning airwaves in March last year.

The sale in Asia’s third-largest economy compares with about $100 billion raised by European nations in 2000. India’s biggest telecom operators including Bharti Airtel Ltd. have bought airwaves this year, after the nation allowed trading in airwaves, to prepare for more competition. That may undermine the government’s spectrum auction.

“We’ve moved from a spectrum shortage to a spectrum glut,” Himanshu Kapania, managing director at Idea Cellular Ltd., India’s third-largest mobile-phone operator, told reporters in Mumbai on Monday. “Companies will bid for spectrum that can be deployed immediately rather than hoard spectrum for the future.”

Bharti, controlled by billionaire Sunil Mittal, spent $1.2 billion in spectrum deals in March, to prepare for competition from Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., the telecom unit of Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man. Jio, which has already spent 1.5 trillion rupees, has also been striking deals to make sure it will be able to provide coverage across the nation.

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