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Nine telcos get nod to participate in 3G bids
NEW DELHI: The telecom ministry has cleared all nine telecom companies to participate in third generation (3G) airwaves sale process scheduled to begin on April 9. It has also approved the 11 firms that submitted bids for broadband wireless spectrum (BWA) auctions that will begin after completion of 3G sale process.

According to the telecom department, all six of India’s largest private telecom companies — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices and Aircel — have bid for 3G spectrum in all 22 circles.

These six companies have also bid for BWA airwaves on pan-India basis. Three other service providers — Etisalat, S Tel and Videocon — will take part in the 3G sale process, but in select circles. These three operators have also not bid for BWA airwaves, the telecom department said.

It also said Qualcomm and Mahendra Nahata-promoted HFCL have placed pan-India bids for broadband wireless spectrum, but Augure, Tikona and Spice will not bid for these airwaves in all circles.

The 3G airwaves will help telecom companies offer high-end services such as ultra fast internet and video conferencing on mobiles. BWA airwaves will allow them to provide wireless internet services.

All incumbent operators, with exception of Uninor, majority owned by Norway’s Telenor, and Sistema-Shyam had placed bids for 3G auctions. Uninor’s MD Stein-Erik Vellan earlier told ET that the company first wants to see clarity emerge on the allotment of 2G spectrum before it takes the 3G plunge. Its allocations of 2G airwaves have been put on hold until the government comes up with a new allotment methodology.

Before March 2009, when the allocations were stopped, telcos got spectrum based on their subscriber numbers. Sistema, which offers CDMA-based mobile services, cannot bid as the 3G auctions are restricted to the rival technological platform called Global System of Mobiles (GSM) platform.

The base price for pan-India 3G airwaves is Rs 3,500 crore while for broadband wireless spectrum, it is Rs 1,750 crore. The government hopes to rake in Rs 35,000 crore from the sale process. The government is auctioning three slots of 3G airwaves in 17 telecom service areas and four in the other five areas.

For broadband airwaves, only two slots are up for sale across the country. State-owned BSNL and MTNL have already been allotted 3G and broadband wireless frequencies and currently offer high-end services on both technological platforms.

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