3 Jan : Spectrum crunch may force the government to allow only three private operators to offer 3G services in a circle and said that successful bidders will have to make 100 percent payment by 10th March.
Even the empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in its last meeting had taken a decision to this effect, says minutes of the meeting.
This would mean that the government may not get the targeted Rs 25,000 crore from sale of radio waves needed for third generation telecom services in case only three blocks were auctioned.
According to the minutes of the EGoM meeting, held on 21st December, 2009, “DoT will auction 3 or 4 blocks each of 2×5 MHz of 3G spectrum pan-India (excluding one block assigned to BSNL/MTNL) subject to availability of spectrum.”
Immediately after the EGoM meeting, Telecom Minister A Raja had announced that four blocks of 3G spectrum would be auctioned.
On the issue of payment to be made by the operators, the DoT has cleared the air that the successful bidders would have make entire payment of 3G spectrum by 10th March and in case of WiMax by 20th March this year.
The government has fixed reserve price for 3G spectrum at Rs 3,500 crore for pan-India and Rs 1,750 for WiMax services.
DoT is likely to issue Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) on 10th January start the auction of 3G spectrum on 12th February and complete the process on 5th March, 2010.
The DoT has already got 10 MHz of spectrum from the defence and five MHz will be released by 31st March and another five MHz by August this year.
Out of this one block has already been given to BSNL/MTNL leaving spectrum sufficient for three players only.
“All the blocks of 3G spectrum to be auctioned would be allotted to the successful bidders immediately after auction and assigned for use from August 2010 simultaneously,” the EGoM minutes said.
On the payment issue, DoT officials said that the bidders would be asked to deposit 25 percent of the bid amount by 28th February and the balance by 10th March in case of 3G and for the Wimax spectrum the schedule is 25 percent to be paid by March and the remaining by 20th March.