India says will start 3G auction in January

NEW DELHI, October 24, 2009 (AFP) – India said Saturday a long-delayed auction of radio bandwidth for third generation (3G) telecommunications services will start in January and will be open to foreign companies. The Central Bureau of Investigation alleged in a statement “a criminal conspiracy between certain officials” of the ministry and “private persons/companies and others in order to award licences to these companies.”

The agency said it registered criminal cases against unnamed officials working in the department and company executives for conspiring to keep licence prices down.

Telecoms Minister A. Raja has denied any “irregularities” in the awarding of the licences and has rejected opposition calls for his resignation. The auction will start January 14, 2010 with bids to be submitted by December 21, the Department of Telecommunications said in an announcement posted on its website, adding that the time schedule could be revised.

The auction of 3G radio spectrum for mobile services will put India’s cellular market — the fastest growing in the world — on track for a new level of wireless telephony, experts say.

The government has said it aims to raise 250 billion rupees (5.38 billion do