India Billboards
A file photograph of a rickshaw puller in front of billboards belonging to telecom companies in Kolkata, India.Reuters

India has raised a record $17.6bn (£11.8bn, €16bn) from the sale of mobile phone airwaves in its latest telecom spectrum auction, according to telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

The government received bids worth almost Rs 1.10tn ($17.6bn) after 19 days of bidding, Prasad said. That figure beats the Rs 1.06tn raised in 2010's auction.

Victorious bidders have to pay a quarter to a third of the winning price initially, and the remainder by 2027.

Spectrum revenue is needed to plug the nation's fiscal deficit.

However, the government's payday could be delayed as the final allocations to operators will take place after 26 March, when the Supreme Court rules on multiple cases questioning the auction guidelines and criteria, Reuters reported.

Bidders

New Delhi did not disclose winning bidders and the regions in which they had won the spectrum.

But the country's top operators -- Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Group's Indian arm and Idea Cellular -- are expected to have purchased a majority of the 20-year licences on offer.

Cash-rich conglomerate Reliance Industries is also among bidders expected to spend big on airwaves, as it prepares to roll out nationwide 4G services five years after buying its licence.

Operators are seen betting on the vast potential for mobile data in India, the fastest growing smartphone market the world over.

Morningstar analyst Piyush Jain wrote in a note: "(The) competitive landscape in the telecom sector is becoming favourable for large telecom companies as they have consolidated their leadership over the last few years."