India's 3G auctions set for February

Nicole McCormick
04 Jan 2010

Operators seeking 3G spectrum in India will have to wait until January 25 to lodge their 3G applications with the government to join the bidding race, according to latest reports.

India’s auctions are now penned to start around February 10-12.

The latest reported timetable marks a widely-expected delay from the government’s schedule to begin the auction process on January 14.

India’s 3G auctions have been held up several times in the past. The auction was originally earmarked for December 2008.

The latest 3G kerfuffle centers around how many 3G licenses will be available for auction to private operators.

In early December, it emerged that India’s Department of Defense had agreed with the Department of Telecom to relinquish 25MHz of spectrum at 2100MHz, paving the way for up to four private 3G licensees per circle.

However, in late-December India’s Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, agreed to auction three or four blocks of 3G spectrum to private operators.

This led Communications Minister A. Raja to clarify that the DOT was sticking to its original plan to auction four private 3G licenses.

In a bid to ease chronic 2G spectrum shortages, India’s large operators – Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone – are expected to partake in the 3G auction.

Analysts estimate it could cost $1 billion to deploy a pan-Indian 3G network at 2100MHz.

So far, BSNL and MTNL’s 3G services have been plagued by high tariffs, but both operators recently slashed tariffs to boost ailing subscriptions.

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