The number of 5G subscribers in India is expected to reach 500 million by 2027, according to a report. Mobile phones in the vast country have become almost indispensable even among rural Indians, with a farmer here seen taking a selfie during a 2019 stock photo protest.

Vishal Bhatnagar | AFP | Getty Images

India’s 5G auction kicks off on Tuesday and four local companies will race to bid for the country’s first 5G spectrum ahead of a deployment planned for 2023.

Bidders will include the three major mobile operators in India: Reliance Jio, the market leader, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

The surprise entry of Indian billionaire Gautam Adani as the fourth contender could still rock the boat.

5G refers to the fifth generation of high-speed mobile internet that promises super-fast download speeds that can support technologies like driverless cars and virtual reality.

A total of 72 gigahertz of 5G spectrum will be on the block, with winning bids retaining the rights for 20 years.

In total, the four bidders have implemented $2.7 billion (218 billion Indian rupees) as a deposit, the mandatory sum required to confirm a contract. The amount of deposit deposited gives an indication of the amount of spectrum a company wishes to purchase.

Companies bidding for 5G spectrum in India

5G bidders Deposit (In Indian Rupees)
Addiction Jio 140 billion
Bharti Airtel 55 billion
Vodafone Idea 22 billion
Adani Data Networks 1 billion

The auction will see an aggressive bid from Reliance Industries’ Jio, who has deposited 140 billion rupees in government deposits – the highest amount among the suitors.

Other major mobile operators include Bharti Airtel which put down Rs 55 billion and Vodafone Idea which put down Rs 22 billion in deposits.

Adani enters the 5G race

The The Adani Group conglomerate, which operates mainly in infrastructure, has paid only 1 billion Indian rupees as a deposit, allowing it to bid for a limited amount of spectrum.

Before the identity of the fourth bidder was leaked, there was speculation of a new competitor in the mobile network and data space, which raised expectations for higher bids.

However, the company decided to stifle speculation. Contacted by CNBC, the Adani Group denied plans to enter the mobile phone space.

“We are participating in the 5G spectrum auction to provide private network solutions as well as enhanced cybersecurity in airport, ports and logistics, power generation, transmission, distribution and various operations of manufacturing,” the group said in a statement.

While the small amount of deposit rules out a national entry into the mobile space by Adani, it still leaves room to acquire enough spectrum to provide coverage in major cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi, an important market.

In India, “5G is expected to account for almost 40% of mobile subscriptions – 500 million – by the end of 2027”, according to a Ericsson’s recent reportone of the leading 5G equipment suppliers in the United States

“By then, smartphone users in the region are expected to consume an average of 50 GB of data per month,” the report said, adding that “there is already a good basis for 5G adoption” in the country. .

Consumers are very interested in 5G adoption, the report says citing a recent study. He estimated that around 40 million smartphone users could adopt 5G within the first year of its availability.