It appears that there could be some light at the end of the tunnel, with the Indian government having unveiled a new timetable for the long-delayed auction of third-generation spectrum, the Economic Times is reporting. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has revealed that the sale process itself will now commence on 9 April 2010, with the regulator adding that it would issue the notice inviting application (NIA) for bids today, 25 February 2010. Under the revised schedule applications are due by 19 March, and pre-qualification of bidders is to take place on 30 March 2010, with mock auctions following on 5 April and 6 April.
However, according to the Business Standard, in an official statement the DoT has confirmed that it is now only planning to auction off three UMTS licences, rather than the four originally planned. The fourth is not expected to offered until an undetermined later date, due in part to the fact that spectrum is unlikely to be available until at least 2013, according to the regulator. The reserve price for 3G spectrum has been set at INR35 billion (USD750 million), although it is widely expected that with competition for the licences so fierce the winning bids will eclipse that. State-owned telcos Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) have both already been given spectrum to roll out services in their respective circles of operation.
Alongside the 3G development, the government has also clarified the timeframe for the sale of wireless broadband spectrum, noting that the auction for such frequencies will commence two days after the 3G sale has closed. The reserve price for WiMAX spectrum has been set at INR17.5 billion, and it is understood that two concessions will be offered.