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Foreign cos abstain from 3G meet; telcos seek clarity
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Foreign telecom companies today stayed away from a meeting to discuss the blueprint for 3G (third generation) mobile spectrum auction,
while domestic players were riddled with doubts regarding regulation and availability of airwaves.

The Department of Telecom Member (Finance) Vijayalakshmi K Gupta said the department would, on December eight, issue the final blueprint of the auction with regard to number of 3G slots and as of now the information memorandum is the document for reference.

But the absence of foreign players at the pre-bid conference, which set in motion the auction process, was conspicuous.

An AT&T spokesperson from Hong Kong said: "We have no comment at this time," while France Telecom and Cable and Wireless said they would not bid for 3G spectrum auction. UK's BT had already stated that it was not interested in India's 3G service, which would offer users high speed internet services.

All existing domestic players -- Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices and new licensees like Unitech Wireless, Shyam Sistema, STel, Etisalat DB were present at the conference today.

The players, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar in particular, sought clarity on policy matters, including about the impact of the pending TRAI recommendations on 3G spectrum auction and chances of increase in number of slots for auction in circles if defence ministry releases spectrum.

"What we want is clarity ... we are want the auction to take place within this fiscal ... unless there is clarity on 2G and mergers and acquisition framework, where there are still some certainties, it can't be a fair process," Vodafone Essar resident director, Delhi, T V Ramachandran said.

DoT has already said it would auction four slots of 3G spectrum to operators in most of the circles and where there was not enough spectrum to accommodate four operators, there will only be two 3G slots in the states of Delhi and Gujarat, while there were no third generation airwaves for auction in Rajasthan and all North East states (except Assam).

For CDMA operators, the IM states that there are no 3G airwaves for auction in the circles of Delhi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan.

On the issue of defence ministry's release of 10Mhz of spectrum, joint secretary J S Deepak said DoT has not been factored in the 10Mhz in IM as it is being used by BSNL.

In the pre-bid conference, the DoT clarified that there would be no waiting list in the spectrum auction as it will only invite bidding for that many slots for which spectrum is available.

The reserve price for 3G and broadband wireless bidding has been set at Rs 3,500 crore and Rs 1,750 crore respectively. The government expects to earn around Rs35,000 crore revenue combined from both the auctions.

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