Vodafone's $7.2 billion cash injection into its Indian business has turned up the heat just days ahead of an $84 billion airwave auction which could decide who wins and loses in one of the world's fastest-growing telecoms markets.
Spending may fall well short of that huge target.
But, industry insiders and advisers say, the race for premium spectrum will carve up 4G airwaves, and the spending splurge could even decide the size and timing of one of India's largest listings: Vodafone's own Indian IPO.
India's telecoms sector is crowded, cut-throat and often money-losing. Many carriers struggle under multi-billion dollar debt piles left by past auctions, prompting industry bodies to caution that high prices - as the government scrambles to close its budget deficit - could dampen future investment.
But few players will be able to sit out India's biggest auction, potentially more than double the size of all three past auctions. It will be a test of self-discipline, analysts and industry insiders say, but Vodafone's cash boost is a sign of how high stakes will be when the sale begins on Saturday (Oct 1).