The third time’s the charm. After being postponed twice, the auction of third- generation, or 3G, spectrum appears set to go through. On Friday, the department of telecommunications (DoT), it is reported, finally agreed with the finance ministry to set the reserve price at Rs4,040 crore.
DoT had long resisted good advice from the finance ministry to double its initial reserve price of Rs2,020 crore (the base price for every block of spectrum). We’re glad the better argument seems to have won the day.
We, too, argued earlier this year in favour of this higher price. First, it generates revenue at a time of anaemic tax collections. Second, it allows the government to take full advantage of its control over a public good such as the airwaves. If private firms can make handsome profits by selling telecom companies, as Unitech did last year, why shouldn’t the government?
But this is just the start; the actual auction remains. How transparently it is conducted, and how quickly consumers start benefiting from 3G—all depend on telecom minister A. Raja. For that, he had better clean up his act.