India Resumes 3G Auction Process, Inviting Applications

India started the process for auctioning 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) licenses again on Thursday, but it has scaled back the number of licenses up for bidding.

The auction was postponed since January last year.

The government has decided to auction for 3G three blocks of 5MHz of paired spectrum in the 2.1GHz band in 17 of the country's 22 service areas, with four blocks up for bidding in the remaining five service areas.

Last year, the government had indicated that four blocks of spectrum would be auctioned to the private sector in most of the service areas, but it has trimmed down the number of licenses reportedly because the country's defense ministry may not be able vacate spectrum in time for the private sector entrants.

A block of spectrum in all service areas has already been allotted to two government-owned telecommunications service providers. They will be paying a license fee equivalent to the highest bid in the auction for each service area. The two companies -- Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited -- have already rolled out services in some parts of the country.

In the case of the BWA Auction, the government plans to auction two blocks of 20MHz unpaired spectrum in each of the 22 service areas. A third block has been reserved in all the service areas for the government-owned companies.

India's Department of Telecommunications (DOT) on Thursday issued a notice inviting applications for the auctions, a day after it announced a revised schedule for the auction.

The 3G auction is now scheduled for April 9. The BWA auction is scheduled to be held two days after the completion of the auction of 3G licenses.

Both Indian and foreign companies can bid in the auctions, though winning foreign bidders will have to offer 3G services through Indian joint ventures in which their holding is a maximum of 74 percent.

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