The first Indian spectrum auction in years ending in two days and brought in loads of cash, but operators once more declined to bid on 700 MHz lots.

700 MHz spectrum should be in very high demand as such low-frequency spectrum offers excellent range and propagation characteristics. This should especially be the case in a country as large as India and yet, for the second auction running, none of it was snapped up.

The reason for this, according to Indian media, was the high reserve price. The same happened five years ago, it seems, leading to a 43% cut in the reserve price, but this was still too steep for Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone idea. The latter two are still reeling from the last shakedown from the rapacious Indian government, which seems to view its telecoms sector as a cash cow to be tapped whenever it’s short of cash.

The regionalised 30 MHz chunks of 700 MHz spectrum could transform the connectivity of swathes of the country, but’s that’s apparently not a priority for the Indian government. Government minister Ravi Shanker Prasad is reported as saying the 77,000 core rupees ($10 billion? $100 billion?) represented a ‘satisfactory’ haul, so it looks like he’d rather the 700 MHz stuff went unsold than the government gets less than it thinks it deserves for those slivers of air.

It seems most of that money was handed over merely to renew existing 4G licenses, which makes the sums involved even more ridiculous. Apparently there will be ‘5G auctions’ later this year and if loads of that goes unsold that will confirm the Indian government places its own avarice above the communications needs of its citizens.

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