3G spectrum auction in India led to a fragmented allocation across operators, with none of the operators winning pan-India. The incumbents (Bharti, Idea, Vodafone) were however, able to cover 65-75% of their revenue base. As a result of this fragmented allocation, these operators entered into intra-circle roaming arrangements with one another to provide a nation-wide 3G service using each others’ spectrum in circles where they didn’t win.
Idea appears best placed. Most of its important circles have been covered with 3G spectrum (74% of revenue). While it didn’t win the important Mumbai, Delhi circles, it should be noted that Idea is relatively a new operator in these circles, which is also reflected in its revenue market share. Late entry has resulted in relatively inferior quality subscribers who are less likely to use 3G services, at least in the medium term. This should moderate any impact from lack of high-speed data service in these circle.
Airtel hasn’t won 3G spectrum in five of its important circles where it has 18-35% revenue share. Airtel has covered 69% of its Revenue base by 3G services. Two of the circles – Kolkata and Punjab, where it has 26% and 35% revenue share respectively – are coming up for renewal in the next two years.
Vodafone has the least revenue covered with 3G spectrum at 66% of RMS base. However, two of the three relatively important circles where the company has more than 20% revenue share, Kerala and Rajasthan, are coming up for renewal in the next two years.