India plans global 3G spectrum auction

NEW DELHI, August 1, 2008 (AFP) – India said Friday it plans a global auction for the airwaves needed to offer high-speed third generation or 3G mobile phone services, a move that could rake in billions of dollars for the government. The long-awaited decision will allow foreign players the chance to enter the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, which is adding some eight million new subscribers monthly.

The government imposed a floor reserve price of 20.2 billion rupees or 480 million dollars for the licences but bidding could go much higher, based on 3G auctions held elsewhere.

According to estimates, the government could raise up to 10 billion dollars depending on the bids.

Communications Minister Andimuthu Raja said he expected the sale to be held by December.

“We have about 60 MHz of spectrum available with us,” Raja said.

Spectrum, or airwaves, are radio frequencies used to provide wireless services.

Five operators will be initially allowed for each telecommunications area, or circle, in all areas except for New Delhi and Mumbai, where two to three operators will be allowed, Raja said.

India is carved up into 22 telecommunications circles.

“The number of operators can go up to 10 in t