KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia The Indian government will announce plans for rolling out 3G wireless spectrum with the next two months, according to A. Raja, Union Minister of Communications and Technology.
"The 3G auction will be announced within the next two months," Raja told EE Times Wednesday (May 21) during at a conference here, "but whether it is going to be auctioned between the existing operators in India or whether it would be open to global bidders in is yet to be decided."
Added Raja: "We are creating a framework for the mobile wireless policy and at the same time trying to simplify the spectrum issue. We are in an advanced stage of discussions with representatives from the Department of Telecom, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), finance, commerce and the IT ministries as to whether the auction should be open to global bidders or restricted to existing Indian operators."
The spectrum allocation and auction issues have been unresolved for more two years. TRAI recommended in 2006 that 3G spectrum be auctioned, thereby ending speculation that it would be given away free to the existing operators.
In early May, India's telecom agency sought guidance from the prime minister's office on eligibility criteria for 3G auctions. The move stemmed from ongoing turf battles between the agency officials and TRAI.
While TRAI officials insisted that 3G spectrum auctions be limited to existing operators to avoid a bidding war with global carriers, the telecom agency argued that 3G auctions should be open to international bidders. India's finance ministry backed this view as long as global operators met eligibility criteria and foreign direct investment guidelines.
New international bidders also would have to form joint ventures with Indian partners.
Previous Indian spectrum auctions in 1995 and 2001 were open to international bidders.
Raja said details of the spectrum auction have been referred to the Indian prime ministers office, which he said will resolve outstanding issues by July.