The much-talked about 2G mobile phone spectrum auction today virtually flopped with just Rs 9,407 crore being garnered in the process contrary to the high valuation estimated by the CAG in its damning report of the government two years ago.
The auction, which lasted just two days, got total bids worth Rs 9,407.64 crore, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters at the end of the bidding, which was a far cry from the 35-day bidding for the 3G spectrum in 2010 that got Rs 67,719 crore.
The government was targetting a minimum of Rs 28,000 crore from the sale of 2G spectrum in the GSM band and the tepid response may upset its efforts to meet the revised fiscal deficit target of 5.3 per cent of GDP. Overall, the government had budget Rs 40,000 crore as revenue from spectrum sale this fiscal.
Sibal refused to comment on the CAG's estimation of Rs 1.76 lakh crore as the loss to the exchequer in giving away spectrum on first-come-first-serve basis in 2008.
In an apparent dig at the CAG, he merely said, "the facts are before the nation and quite clear."
Going by the 3G auction price, the current sale should have fetched Rs 1 lakh crore but "what we have got is Rs 9,407 crore... so this is a market and that is how it plays itself out."
None of the five companies bidding for the spectrum made any offer for pan-India airwaves for which the reserve price was set at Rs 14,000 crore, a rate considered high by the industry.
Sibal said in all 101 out of the 144 blocks of spectrum on offer got bids.
Metro cities of Delhi and Mumbai, which accounted for 40 per cent of the base price of Rs 14,000 crore for 5 MHz of 2G spectrum, drew no bids.
The government had put on auction more than half of the spectrum that was freed from Supreme Court in February this year cancelling 122 mobile permits issued by the then Telecom Minister A Raja to nine telecom companies in 2008.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had in 2010 said Raja's decision to give away spectrum at rates fixed in 2001 had caused a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer taking the price garnered in the 3G auction as the benchmark.
The government thereafter fixed a base at a rate almost equivalent to the third-generation (3G) auction price.