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Thursday, 28 September 2006 20:20

India takes the EU route in 3G spectrum licenses

ImageThe Indian government is set rake in a few billions through the auction of 3G spectrum.

Cellular operators will have to shell out over $230 million each as a reserve price to participate in the bidding process for allocating nationwide spectrum to offer 3G services, which enable high speed access of data, video, graphics and music on mobiles.

Add the bid amount and this would shoot up even higher, perhaps making the services costlier when they are launched next year.

Communications minister Dayanidhi Maran said the policy, based on telecom regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) recommendations, would be finalised within three months, implying that India would see the launch of the much-hyped 3G services within a year.

Releasing recommendations on allocation and pricing of spectrum, TRAI said 3G services would initially be offered only in three bands: 450 MHz (for one operator), 800 MHz (two operators) and 2.1 GHz bands (five operators).

The reserve price will vary from $3-18 million depending on telecom circles (service areas), which are divided into A, B and C categories.

The 3G spectrum would be available only for existing telecom operators like Bharti-Airtel, BSNL/MTNL, Hutch, Idea, Reliance and Tatas.

{loadposition toolbar}Interestingly, this is the first time that government-owned operators like MTNL and BSNL would also have to compete with the private players to carve out a share of the 3G spectrum space.

Overall, the government is expected to net up to $1.8 billion from the 3G spectrum. The highest bidder will get the clearest frequency channel, with the rest of the winners having to pay 75% of the highest bid.

This technology has found huge markets in Europe and Japan. In 2005, almost 40% of mobile users in Japan are reported to be on 3G technology. The advanced technology requires high-speed broadband which cannot be upgraded on the 2G networks.

Worldwide, governments have raked in huge funds by auctioning 3G spectrum. In Europe, the spectrum auctions yielded billions of euros.

India will not be very different. An operator seeking 3G spectrum on all-India basis will have to pay about $312 million.. There are up to six operators in most of the category circles. Even if only four players bid for 3G spectrum in a circle, then the government will collect a minimum of $1.2 billion.

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