India’s 3G auction licence bids continue to rise

NEW DELHI, May 8, 2010 (AFP) – Bids for nationwide licences in India’s sale of spectrum for superfast 3G mobile services have hit 2.65 billion dollars, a statement on a government website said Saturday. That price — 120.69 billion rupees (2.65 billion) — is nearly 3.5 times the 35 billion rupee reserve price set by the government for a pan-India slot.

In the new round of bidding Saturday, bids for each pan-India slot kicked off at 122.52 billion rupees.

Nine cellular firms, including Indian market leaders Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications, are competing for slots of 3G airwaves in the country, which added a record 20.31 million subscribers last month.

Telecom Minister A. Raja has said the government is likely to earn upwards of 500 billion rupees from the auction of 3G spectrum and a follow-on sale of broadband airwaves.

Analysts believe the 3G auction could be heading into its final stretch and could conclude next week.

The sale, in which phone operators are slugging it out for scarce spectrum space in the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, is seen as propelling India decisively into the Internet era. There are nearly half a billion mobile-phone subscribers in Ind