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Adani and Ambani: Asia's wealthiest men battle to dominate 5G in India

Adani and Ambani: Asia's wealthiest men battle to dominate 5G in India

The largest auction for 5G airwaves has ended after seven days in India, potentially setting the stage for a battle over the country's digital future between two of Asia's wealthiest men – Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani.

A total of 72 gigahertz spectrum was on the block in the auction. According to India's telecoms minister, Ashwini Vaishnav, 71% of what was on offer was sold. The government drew bids worth approximately $19bn from the three current players - Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Mr. Ambani's Reliance-Jio and from a fourth, new entrant, Adani Data Networks.

R-Jio emerged as the largest bidder, buying spectrum worth $11bn, but the Adani group spent only about $26m. The remaining bids came from Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.

While Bharti Airtel and R-Jio reportedly bid for pan-India airwaves, cash-strapped Vodafone Idea spent only on priority sectors and Adani for private spectrum that would be accessible in specific areas. In a statement, R-Jio said it is ready for the 5G rollout in a short period because of its nationwide fiber presence and solid global partnership across the technology ecosystem.

While Mr. Ambani is popular in India's internet market, Mr. Adani was a surprise bidder. However, the Adani Group said it was not interested in competing in the broader market outside of the private spectrum; analysts say this could be the first step in that direction.


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