The Adani Group is making a surprise entry which will pitch it directly against Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio and telecom czar Sunil Bharti Mittal's Airtel.

Gautam Adani, the founder and the Chairman of the Adani Group, addressing an eventFile image
Atom Telecom Sunday, July 10, 2022 - 10:21

Billionaire Gautam Adani's group on Saturday confirmed its entry into the race to acquire telecom spectrum, which it said will be used to create a private network to support its businesses from airports to power as well as data centres. "As India prepares to roll out the next generation of 5G services through this auction, we are one of the many applications participating in the open bidding process," the group said in a statement.

PTI on Friday reported Adani group making a surprise entry which will pitch it directly against Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio and telecom czar Sunil Bharti Mittal's Airtel. "We are participating in the 5G spectrum auction to provide private network solutions along with enhanced cyber security in the airport, ports and logistics, power generation, transmission, distribution, and various manufacturing operations," the statement said.

Adani Group plans to use the airwaves for its data centre as well as the super app it is building to support businesses from electricity distribution to airports, gas retailing to ports. "As we build our own digital platform encompassing super apps, edge data centres, and industry command and control centres, we will need ultra high quality data streaming capabilities through a high frequency and low latency 5G network across all our businesses," it said.

Applications for participating in the July 26 auction of airwaves, including those capable of providing fifth-generation or 5G telecom services such as ultra-high-speed internet connectivity, closed on Friday with at least four applications. Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea — the three private players in the telecom sector — applied. The fourth applicant is Adani Group, which had recently obtained National Long Distance (NLD) and International Long Distance (ILD) licences.

"If we are awarded 5G spectrum in the open bidding, it will also align with our recent announcement of significantly increasing the Adani Foundation's investments in education, healthcare and skill development in rural areas, each of which stands to benefit from 5G technology," Adani group said. "All of this is aligned with our nation building philosophy and supporting Atmanirbhar Bharat."

As per the auction timelines, ownership details of applicants are to be published on July 12 and the bidders should be known then. A total of 72,097.85 MHz of spectrum worth at least Rs 4.3 lakh crore will be put on the block during the auction, set to commence on July 26, 2022. The auction will be held for spectrum in various low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz), mid (3300 MHz) and high (26 GHz) frequency bands.

Ambani and Adani, who hail from Gujarat and went on to build mega business groups, had till recently not had a direct face-off. While the former expanded from the oil and petrochemicals business into telecom and retail, the latter diversified from the ports segment to coal, energy distribution and aviation. But increasingly, their interests are overlapping, setting what some say is the stage for a clash.

Adani has in recent months set up a subsidiary for a foray into petrochemicals — a business that Ambani's father Dhirubhai began with before its downstream and upstream operations. Ambani too has announced multi-billion-dollar plans for new energy business, including Giga factories for solar panels, batteries, green hydrogen and fuel cells. Adani, who had previously announced plans to be the world's largest renewable energy producer by 2030, too has unveiled hydrogen ambitions. And now, if the Adani group participates in the 5G auction on July 26, it will be the first direct competition with Ambani.

The Cabinet, last month, approved 5G auctions at reserve prices recommended by the sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The regulator had recommended an about 39 per cent cut in floor price for the sale of 5G spectrum for mobile services. The validity of the right to use spectrum will be 20 years.

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