New Delhi: India is readying guidelines for the entry of foreign telecom firms into what is called third generation, or 3G, mobile phone services here and the rules of entry, as part of a larger policy, could be announced as early as the weekend, a senior official in the communications ministry said, asking not to be identified.
Green signal: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given a go-ahead for allowing foreign companies to bid for 3G licences, when the telecom minister (Andimuthu Raja) met him late last Friday,” the official said. A draft of the 3G rules will be sent to some quarters of the government including the telecom commission, the apex body at the department of telecommunications, and the country’s telecom regulator, Trai, “in the next couple of days”, the official said. The final guidelines could be notified by the weekend, he added.
A 3G mobile phone service allows high-speed data connections such as live video, Internet surfing, email and other applications on a mobile phone.
A Delhi-based telecom expert said allowing foreign players as a stand alone 3G player is not a viable business model and the government’s hope of getting higher revenues— estimated at some $5 billion (Rs21,550 crore)—from auctioning 3G licences may not materialize.
“Allowing foreign players as a stand alone (without rights to operate second generation or voice-dominated services) may prove to be a damp squib, as the merger and acquisition guidelines, as notified by DoT (department of telecommunications) in April, does not allow merger of spectrum for three years. The foreign firms who might bid and win then will be standalone players and it doesn’t make business sense,” this person said on condition of anonymity. Global firms such as AT&T Inc., Deutsche Telekom AG and NTT DoCoMo Inc. have expressed interest in entering the Indian market, and the 3G auction could be an opportunity for them to sell such services to customers known for their avid interest in watching cinema and live sports broadcast.