Before 2015, the Indian telecom industry was rife with players—nine in all. Then Reliance Jio happened, and as data tariffs plummeted, a wave of consolidation ensued. The latest example being the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular to form Vodafone Idea which concluded on 31 August. Now, the Indian telecom industry has just three major players—Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone Idea. And as the dust of consolidation settles, a curious new reality has emerged. Spectrum, once the object of bidding wars, is no longer a rare commodity. In fact, thanks to consolidation, the remaining players have it in abundance.
The post-spectrum phase of Indian telecom
The dust of consolidation in the telecom industry is still settling but a lot is already clear. Spectrum is no longer the rare commodity it once was. Its acquisition no longer priority number one. But if they aren’t interested in acquiring spectrum, what exactly are telcos up to?
After consolidation in the telecom industry, the remaining players say they have a surplus of spectrum
This is likely to throw a spanner in TRAI's plans for another spectrum auction
TRAI has recommended lowering base prices for the auction, but debt levels of telcos mean they will stay away regardless
Instead of buying more spectrum, telcos are looking to better utilise their existing resources while also prepping for 5G