India’s 5G auction kicks off today. These are the companies in the race

The number of 5G subscribers in India is expected to grow to 500 million by 2027, according to a report. Mobile phones in the vast country have become almost indispensable even among rural Indians, with a farmer here seen taking a selfie during a protest in stock photo from 2019.

Vishal Bhatnagar | Afp | Getty Images

India’s 5G auction kicks off on Tuesday and four local companies will be in the race to bid for the country’s first 5G spectrum ahead of a planned rollout in 2023.

Bidders will include all the three major mobile operators in India: Reliance Jio, the market leader, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

The surprise entry of Indian billionaire Gautam Adani as the fourth contender could still rock the boat.

5G refers to the fifth generation of high-speed mobile internet which promises super-fast download speeds that can support technologies like driverless cars and virtual reality.

A total of 72 gigahertz of 5G spectrum will be on the block, for which winning bids will retain the rights for 20 years.

In total, the four bidders have put up $2.7 billion (218 billion Indian rupees) in earnest money, the mandatory sum required to confirm a contract. The amount of earnest money deposited provides an indication of the amount of spectrum a company wishes to buy.

Companies bidding for India 5G spectrum

5G bidders Earnest money (in Indian rupees)
Reliance Jio 140 billion
Bharti Airtel 55 billion
Vodafone Idea 22 billion
Adani Data Networks 1 billion

The auction will see aggressive bidding by Reliance Industries’ Jio, which has deposited 140 billion rupees of earnest money with the government — the largest amount among the contenders.

Other major mobile operators include Bharti Airtel which put 55 billion rupees and Vodafone Idea which deposited 22 billion rupees of earnest money.

Adani enters the 5G race

The Adani Group conglomerate, which operates mainly in infrastructure, put in only 1 billion Indian rupees as earnest money, which entitles it to bid for only a limited amount of spectrum.

Before the fourth bidder’s identity was disclosed, there was speculation of a new competitor in the mobile network and data space, which drove up expectations of higher bidding. 

However, the company moved to…