Telecom minister A. Raja said in an interview that the auction of the third-generation (3G) mobile radio spectrum that began on Friday has been a completely transparent process. Edited excerpts:
You must have received some initial reports about the auction. Tell us how it is progressing?
It is a significant day in the history of telecom for India. According to the sources available with me, and what I hear from the industry also, the participants in the bidding process are showing the fullest motivation. I do hope that it may go up further and we can easily fetch some Rs40,000-45,000 crore.
Positive response: Telecom minister A. Raja. Manpreet Romana/AFP
Given the kind of response we have seen in the auction in terms of nine firms bidding for 3G, do you feel now that the reserve price could have been the originally suggested Rs4,000 crore instead of Rs3,500 crore?
It has been decided in the eGoM (empowered group of ministers) that this base price is sufficient. It may be interpreted either way. But one cannot deny that whatever was the decision taken in the eGoM has been accepted by all the operators who participated in the tender.
They are happy. The process is very transparent. Nowhere in the process, which was started 10 days back, including the mock auction, nowhere in the system was there any ill feeling or a second opinion has been explored by the companies that participated in the process. What does it mean? Everything is intact, including the base price.
Some critics say the policy was not correct, which is why foreign firms have stayed away.
I do not know where they stand because when the policy was devised, it was not assigned. When the recommendation came to me and the department saying that 3G spectrum should be auctioned and what will be the slot and amount of the spectrum, no criticism or no suggestion was made.
So the only question arose was how many slots are going to be auctioned. When we decided that three-four slots can be auctioned, suddenly you cannot make criticism that the policy that is devised by the government is not correct.
They are having their own inability or business viability. Whether they come to India or not is their own wish.
One thing must be noted that whether it is Indian or the foreign operator, the policy of FDI is always there. The basket is open for them to come into the picture through the local operator to have 10-20% (stake). Airtel, Aircel and Vodafone have diluted their shares to foreign companies. This means that the other gate is open.