Days after releasing a timeline for its 3G spectrum auction, the Indian government admits the dates could slip.
Telecom Minister Andimuthuu Raja Monday acknowledged the planned December 7 auction date could be delayed because the military still has not vacated key spectrum.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Raja said the entire process would be completed within the year ending in March 2010.
He said several foreign telcos had expressed interest in the auction but he declined to name any of them. “By and large, we are moving as per the timeline... It may get delayed by some time due to the Christmas vacation, but very positively it will be completed within this financial year,” the minister was quoted as saying.
The auction was supposed to be held in January this year, but postponed amid months of deadlock over pricing for the spectrum.
The Economic Times reported on Monday the Department of Telecom wasn’t able to meet the first deadline of September 29 to release information to potential bidders. Inquiries to the department went unanswered and there was no update on its website.
DoT officials were quoted as saying said the delay was caused because they weren’t able to ensure the availability of spectrum across the 22 circles because the defense ministry has not released 3G frequencies it now occupies. Under a memorandum of understanding with the communications ministry, the armed forces committed to a phased handover of the spectrum.
Raja said the defense ministry “has to respect the decision of the empowered group of ministers,” who set the rules of the auction. Under the plan five wireless operators will be allotted spectrum in each circle. The Department of Telecom reportedly has enough to allocate an initial spectrum of just 5Mhz to three players in every circle.