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The government will auction wireless spectrum in seven bands on 1 March, aiming to raise at least 3.92 trillion this fiscal year that saw its revenues crumble.

The department of telecommunications (DoT) on Wednesday invited eligible bidders to participate in the auction of spectrum blocks in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1,800MHz, 2,100MHz, 2,300MHz and 2,500MHz bands. The department will pre-qualify applicants who meet the eligibility criteria.

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“The government reserves the right to summarily disqualify any pre-qualified bidder at any stage of the auction or after the auction is completed on the grounds of non-compliance with eligibility conditions, misrepresentation, non-compliance with the relevant auction rules, or any matter that may, in the opinion of the government, be contrary to general public interest," according to a DoT notice.

The government said it aims to obtain a “market-determined price" of spectrum, ensure efficient use of spectrum, avoid hoarding, and stimulate competition.

The government is trying to maximize revenue proceeds from the auction, even as two of the three largest telcos have expressed disinterest in the sale due to high base prices.

Analysts fear a repeat of the October 2016 fiasco when large chunks of airwaves remained unsold on similar grounds. Out of the targeted 5.63 trillion, the 2016 auction raised just 65,789 crore, with no takers for spectrum in the 700MHz and 900MHz bands.

In December, the Union cabinet had approved modalities of the next spectrum auction, excluding the 3,300-3,400MHz bands that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended for 5G (fifth generation) wireless service.

DoT said in its notice that buyers can either pay the entire bid amount upfront or shell out 25% for spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz and 900MHz bands, and 50% for airwaves in the 1,800MHz, 2,100MHz, 2,300MHz and 2,500MHz bands. The rest can be paid in a maximum of up to 16 annual instalments, after a moratorium of two years.

“In addition to the bid amount, successful bidders will also have to pay 3% of the adjusted gross revenue (AGR), excluding wireline services as spectrum usage charges (SUC) for the spectrum won through this auction," it said.

Offers can be submitted until 5 February. DoT will notify the venue and time of a pre-bid meet.

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