The government has decided to go ahead and put the entire spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band up for auction as per Supreme Court directives, even though it did not receive any application for the second round of auctions to be held in March.
"There is not likely to be any change in the reserve price in 18 circles for which bids were received in the first round of auction that was held in November," an official of the department of telecommunications (DoT) said.
For Delhi and Mumbai, the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) will decide the reserve price. "The quantum of spectrum, the reserve price and the timelines for this auction will be decided after necessary directions are obtained from the EGoM and where required, the cabinet, in this regard," a DoT statement said on Tuesday.
The government also said that the auction of CDMA spectrum would now start on March 11. Earlier, it was scheduled to start after completion of the GSM airwaves auction.
Some telecom experts smell cartelisation in the lack of participation in the auction. "In a recent auction in UK, the same spectrum was sold for £2.5 billion (Rs 20,550 crore) for an addressable market of 30 million people. The same companies who acquired spectrum in that auction are not willing to pay even half that amount in India for an addressable market of over 300 million, making a mockery of the entire system by boycotting and resorting to judicial intervention," said BK Syngal, former CMD of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd.
Earlier, the Cellular Operators' Association of India said that there were no takers for the 900 MHz band as there were legal issues associated with it. Bharti and Vodafone have already approached the Delhi High court pleading that they should get spectrum without auction as it is part of their licence conditions.