India seeks global firms in 3G spectrum auction

India plans a global auction for the airwaves needed to offer 3G mobile phone services, a move that could rake in billions of dollars for the government, an AFP report said.

The long-awaited decision will allow foreign players the chance to enter the world's fastest-growing mobile market, which is adding some eight million new subscribers monthly, the AFP report added.

The government imposed a floor reserve price of 20.2 billion rupees (€307 million, US$480 million) for the licenses but bidding could go much higher, based on 3G auctions held elsewhere.

According to estimates, the government could raise up to €6.5 billion (US$10 billion) depending on the bids, the AFP report said.

Communications Minister Andimuthu Raja was also quoted saying he expected the sale to be held by December.

'We have about 60 MHz of spectrum available with us,' Raja said.

Five operators will be initially allowed for each telecommunications area, or circle, in all areas except for New Delhi and Mumbai, where two to three operators will be allowed, Raja said.

India is carved up into 22 telecommunications circles.

The announcement of the release of spectrum for 3G mobile services puts India's mobile market on track for a new level of wireless telephony.

The move will give mobile users access to high-end data applications on their phones, including high speed interactive gaming and internet access, video conferencing, video streaming and other multi-media features.