India raised a record US$17.6 billion during intense bidding on a government auction of mobile phone airwaves that ended on Wednesday, as analysts warned of price hikes for subscribers.
Indian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said total bids of 1.1 trillion rupees (US$17.6 billion) had been received during the 19-day auction of wireless spectrum in one of the world’s largest smartphone markets.
The battle among eight mobile phone carriers, including market leaders Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Idea, has been fierce, making the auction the most expensive competition of its kind held in India.
“This is the highest ever in [the] history of India,” the minister told reporters, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
Prasad said the auction, which started on March 4 with 115 rounds of bidding, had surpassed the previous figure of 1.06 trillion rupees raised in India’s last such contest in 2010.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s new Reliance Jio telecoms venture was also among those competing during the auction, which eclipsed the government’s revenue target of 860 billion rupees.
The new spectrums for traditional voice and faster data services are seen as crucial for companies competing in the cut-throat Indian market of 952 million mobile subscribers, according to India’s telecoms regulator.
However, analysts warned that carriers might be forced to hike prices for subscribers to pay for the debt incurred from making bids.
Subscribers in India are used to low call costs thanks to bitter price wars among carriers to snatch more market share.
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