The on-and-off process surrounding India's long-delayed auction of 3G spectrum looks to be on again. The government announced the auction will begin on April 9.
Two days after the 3G auction is completed, India's regulators plan to auction more bandwidth for WiMAX and LTE services.
Applications from bidders will be accepted until March 19, a government notice indicated. The auction has been delayed numerous times over disagreements pertaining to the base price, number of licenses sold and bandwidth availability. Telecommunications Minister A. Raja said "all pending issues have been resolved."
Analysts say, however, there still is a lack of information about the number of licenses that would be available. Previously, Indian regulators had indicated four 3G licenses and three broadband wireless licenses would be available in 20 of the country's 22 telecom zones.
The government has fixed a base price of $760 million for all-India spectrum. However bids are likely to come in much higher than that because of the significant growth potential in the world's fastest growing mobile market.
The WiMAX Forum has been urging India to release spectrum for WiMAX services. Late last year it called on the government to separately release spectrum specifically for WiMAX deployments in the 2.3/2.5 GHz band as a way to tap into broadband growth and economic development in the near term. The WiMAX Forum has argued that WiMAX is the only viable option that will enable fast rollout of broadband services and meet the Indian government's stated goal of supporting 100 million broadband users by 2014.
India's top mobile operator Bharti Airtel has already said it plans to bid for 3G spectrum along with Reliance Communications and other operators such as Vodafone Essar. Analysts believe AT&T could participate in the auction along with Australia's Telstra. The entities would have to partner with an Indian firm to get around foreign ownership restrictions.
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