Bharti won’t bid at 5G auction, reserve price too high: Vittal

‘Will examine need for 1,800 Mhz as usage is coming down’

Bharti Airtel on Wednesday indicated that it would refrain from bidding for 5G spectrum at the auctions, which were likely to be held early next year, given the current reserve prices.

The company may look at radio frequencies below 1,000 megahertz (Mhz) to improve network availability inside buildings and in rural areas, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, India & South Asia, said in a post-earnings call.

“We are hearing from the department that there may be an auction early next year… any time between January and March,” Mr. Vittal said. “Given that the reserve price of 5G is as high as it is, we will not buy it because we won’t be able to afford it. I can’t comment on what others will do, but from our perspective, it will not make sense,” he added.

Bharti would also consider whether it needs to bid for spectrum in the 1,800 Mhz band as the amount of spectrum being used for 2G was decreasing every quarter.

Asked if there were any plans to introduce affordable low-cost smartphones, similar to what Jio was working on, Mr. Vittal said Bharti was studying the space.

On tariffs, Mr. Vittal reiterated that there was a need to raise prices. “We have signaled that we want tariffs to go up. We’re at a premium already, and we’ll be happy to follow the same day if tariffs sort of go up.”

The current tariff levels were not sustainable in the long term for the industry, Mr. Vittal added.

On AGR dues, the Bharti India CEO said the company had sought clarity from the DoT on some issues, including payment terms.

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