3G entrants can get 2G spectrum: telecom official

3G entrants can get 2G spectrum: telecom official

New Delhi: India is hopeful that an auction for third-generation (3G) radio waves next month will draw in bids at a “few times" the reserve price of Rs20.20 billion ($415 million), a senior government official said on Tuesday. The telecom commission feels that the global financial crisis is unlikely to affect the auction for 3G services.

The government also expects to come out with the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) policy by 5 January, when the auction of 3G spectrum commences. Addressing the pre-bid conference for the auction of 3G and BWA spectrum, Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Joint Secretary J S Deepak said, “We are hoping to come out with the policy on MVNO before the end of January 5, which is the deadline for (the) application of 3G spectrum."

As MVNOs do not have spectrum, they operate through commercial arrangements with licensed Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), buying bulk minutes of traffic and reselling them to their own subscribers. Virgin Mobiles is an example operating in India in partnership with Tata Teleservices.

Clearing the air over spectrum allocation, the government also said that successful 3G bidders will be eligible for 2G spectrum. Addressing a pre-bid conference for auctioning 3G and BWA spectrum, Telecom Commission Member (Finance) R Ashok said, “Successful 3G bidders will be eligible for getting 2G spectrum."

However, since the availability of 2G spectrum is an issue, it is very unlikely that the 3G bidders would get it right away. COAI Director General TV Ramachandran said this was technically correct. “The 3G players are eligible for 2G spectrum but they can get the spectrum only after the need of the existing players is met," Ramachandran added.

The auction for the allocation of third-generation radio waves is due next month on 16 January. (With PTI, Reuters adds)