The long-delayed auction process for India’s 3G licences looks to have encountered another alteration following reports that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT’s) draft notice for inviting applications (NIA) for the spectrum sale has proposed a limit of just three winning private GSM operators. According to the Economic Times the draft NIA also calls for the 3G spectrum for CDMA operators to be restricted to just one player per circle, whilst also noting that frequencies will not be offered in six circles – Delhi, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Maharashtra – due to a lack of availability. The revelation counters last month’s recommendation by the Group of Ministers (GoM) tasked with examining the conditions for the 3G auctions; the GoM said that there would be four winning GSM operators per circle. It is thought that the DoT’s decision to stick with its original proposal of three players per circle reflects increased concerns that India’s defence forces will not vacate needed 3G frequencies as per a previously agreed timetable; the defence forces are expected to free up to 5MHz of 3G spectrum in July 2010, followed by a similar amount the following month.
The draft NIA is also expected to detail the payment format and timeframe for the impending auctions, which are due to take place on 12 February; the deadline for applications is set as 25 January. It has been noted that as per the draft, NIA winning bidders will be expected to pay 25% of the final bid amount within five calendar days of the auction, while the remaining balance will be payable within 15 days of the auction’s end. The draft NIA is also believed to have stipulated that commercial launch of 3G services must take place by 2 September 2010.