The government has delayed the planned auction of airwaves to February 3, delaying by two weeks the bidding by the telecom service companies for the bands.
A Reuters report said the government did not give a reason for the delay in a revised auction schedule posted on the telecom ministry’s website, but it has yet to take a decision on a change recommended by the sector regulator in the annual fee carriers pay for using spectrum.
The notice has also said that prospective bidders will have to submit applications by January 15 to participate in the auction, according to the new schedule.
The telecom ministry plans to auction airwaves in the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency bands. For the leading telecom service providers including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone the auctions will give them vital chunks of additional spectrum they have been demanding for years.
But the companies had differed among themselves what will be the annual rates for spectrum usage charges. While the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has suggested bringing all the rates to a common level of three per cent of adjusted gross revenue, the two major telecom industry bodies have differed.
While the GSM service based companies like Bharti and Vodafone are fine with it as they pay charges between 3 and 6 per cent, companies on CDMA licences and on BWA platform like Reliance Jio, which pay a one per cent charge have objections. But all are agreed that the government must decide on the issue before the start of the auction.
The government is keen to resolve the differences as it thinks it can raise at least
Rs 11,000 crore from the auction though experts are convinced the sum could reach Rs 40,000 crore. Also as India has one of the smallest telecom bands in the world per telecom circle at about 100 MHz, this is compromised the expansion of telecom services. In heavy traffic circles call drop and slow data services are heavy complaints.
Companies like Bharti need the 900 MHz to deploy 3G services which includes data and is rapidly becoming the cash cow for the sector that has plummeted into losses in the past two years.
But while they upgrade their service in the 900 MHz band the companies need the 1800 MHz band as temporary parking slots to keep services running. But if they have to pay a higher spectrum usage charge (SUC) for the additional bands,