The Broadband Wireless Access Spectrum Auction came to an end this morning with Infotel Broadband Services springing a surprise by winning Pan India Spectrum. Lets analyze what this mean to the sector and leading operators.
Bharti has won BWA spectrum in Maharasthra (and 3 other circles), a very important circle for Bharti where it missed 3G spectrum. Aircel on the other hand has 3G license in all 8 circles where it has won BWA spectrum. Idea and RCOM have played it right by staying away from BWA as they wait for the eco-system to develop. They might bid aggressively in the next round of BWA auctions. Aircel seems to have been too aggressive.
Tata Communication has not won any circle because they had Wimax as a key-strategy to get last mile access so is their WiMax Story rolled in bits and pieces coming to an end ?
Qualcomm will use India as a testing ground for TD-LTE and once the eco-system develops (infrastructure and devices) it will exit India (Qualcomm has a history of appearing in spectrum auctions to expedite the commercialisation of new technologies).
According to TRAI, the top 20 cities of India account for 70% of broadband subscribers. We expect operators to launch BWA services in the top 20-50 cities initially. The high prices paid for BWA spectrum is not because BWA makes a real business case currently but because of the lure to hold 20 MHz of contiguous spectrum and to develop the eco-system (of either Wimax or TD-LTE, whichever technology the winner decides to launch services with). So Wireless Broadband Services on BWA Spectrum will be comparable to DSL and Cable Internet services currently available in India.