The government will hold an online auction on January 15 to sell spectrum to providers of 3G (third-generation) mobile telephony services. The number of private players will be restricted to four in most states, with the fifth being a state-owned firm.
A much awaited information memorandum on guidelines for the service was finally released on Friday, revealing a shortage of spectrum that left out the North East and Rajasthan in the high-speed services that would set the technological facility for high-speed video and video phone calls.
The number of players in most of the states will be restricted to five and not 10 as the government had claimed earlier. Hindustan Times had first reported on November 3 that there was not enough spectrum available to accommodate more than five players.
Since one slot is restricted for the government-owned BSNL and MTNL, only a maximum of four private players will get spectrum through bids. MTNL officially started the country’s first 3G service on Thursday.
“We have called the pre-bid conference on December 23 and the e-auction date is January 15,” said Sidhharth Behura, telecom secretary. The all-India reserve price of a 3G licence is Rs 2,020 crore.
“We are satisfied that the government has maintained its deadline and has initiated the process of auctioning 3G spectrum,” said TV Ramachandran, executive director of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
All the existing UASL (universal access service licence) holders are eligible to participate in the auction. Those companies that do not have a UASL regime permit but have an experience in providing 3G services are also eligible to bid. However, they will be required to acquire UASL licence.
A successful bidder who is not a UASL licence holder will in a service area is permitted to acquire equity in an existing UASL.
Currently, spectrum fee is charged as a percentage of total revenue.