Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) will bid for spectrum in the 1,800 Mhz band to offer pan-India operations in the forthcoming auction, indicating a significant ambition to expand in the telecom industry after staying away from the segment for five years under a non-compete pact with Anil Ambani's Reliance ADAG Group.
A senior RIL official is said to have sounded the government that the company will bid for spectrum, said an official of the communications ministry. An RIL spokesman offered no comment.
The company already holds 20 MHz of spectrum in the 2300 MHz band. Though this was acquired through a bid in 2010 to provide 4G broadband services such as video downloads and gaming. However, the current liberalised regime and equipment enable flexible use of spectrum for all services including voice calls — covering 2G, 3G and 4G services.
RIL is currently laying infrastructure for it and has a target of launching services by the year end. Though the main focus of the company would still be high-speed data services, it will also offer voice telephony, increasing competition for Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, RCom and Tata Tele.
Reliance Industries Ltd's entry may also result in aggressive bidding, especially in circles like Delhi where there is shortage of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band.
"The company is looking at acquiring as much spectrum as it can. Spectrum is a precious resource and in the coming years, its value will only go up," said a source familiar with the development.
Reliance Industries Ltd will bid for 1800 MHz band for pan-India operations and will acquire a minimum of 5 MHz of spectrum, the source said.