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3G auctions on schedule, forces to vacate spectrum
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New Delhi: Intervention by the empowered group of ministers (eGoM) has ensured that the 3G spectrum auctions would be held on time, from January 14. The eGoM meeting held under finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday reiterated that the auctions would be held for four slots across the country. One slot has already been allotted to BSNL/MTNL.

“The eGoM has decided to auction 3G spectrum for four slots as per original schedule,” communications & IT minister A Raja said after the conclusion of the meeting.

Asked whether the defence ministry would vacate the required spectrum, Raja said, “There is a consensus in the eGoM on vacation of spectrum and it would be allotted simultaneously to all the four winners by August 2010.”

As first reported by fe on November 26, the issues of spectrum vacation by the defence forces and subsequent auction for four slots were resolved by a committee headed by Sam Pitroda. However, problem had arisen when the defence forces did not vacate 25 Mhz spectrum by December 7 as committed. Because of this, the department of telecommunications could not invite applications on December 8, leading to apprehensions that the auctions would be delayed by a few weeks.

Left with no choice, the DoT had sought the eGoM’s approval for auctioning at least three slots, as the spectrum available with it permitted that much. However, with eGoM ratifying the original plan, the defence now has no option but to vacate the spectrum.

The decision to allot spectrum post-auction simultaneously to all the winners is also significant as it would maintain a level-play field, instead of giving a few the first-mover advantage. Tata group chairman Ratan Tata had recently urged the government that spectrum allocation should be done simultaneously to all the winners to maintain a level field.

The government has budgeted for Rs 35,000 crore from the spectrum auctions this fiscal.

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