All nine cos qualify for 3G auction; contest intense

Written by fe Bureaus | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 31 2010, 05:30am hrs
Six of the nine applicants for the upcoming spectrum auction will bid for all 22 telecom circles in the country, according to a government notice on Tuesday. The countrys top six private sector mobile firms Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone-Essar, Tata Teleservices, Idea Cellular and Aircel have applied to bid for all-India spectrum, the department of telecommunications said.

Etisalat DB, Videocon Telecommunications and S Tel Pvt Ltd will bid for 3G spectrum in selective zones.

All these applicants will now submit their financial bids soon. Before the final auction on April 9, there will mock auctions on April 5 and 6. Operators, however, can start commercial launch post September 1, 2010 only. Though the government had fixed a reserve prices of Rs 3,500 crore for all-India 3G spectrum, the bid could be much higher as the number of operators in the fray outweighs the number of slots available. The government could garner at least about Rs 20,000 crore, if one takes into account only the reserve price.

Third generation (3G) telecom services allow faster connectivity than what is available now, and will enable applications such as Internet TV, video-on-demand, audio-video calls and high-speed data exchange. Countrys largest mobile operator Airtel today said it should be able to start 3G services within 6-8 months after bids are through--that is effectively by the end of this year.

For offering 3G services, the government is auctioning three slots in 17 telecom service areas and four in the remaining five areas.