Eight operators in India have stepped forward to participate in the country’s long-awaited spectrum auctions next month.
The bidding companies will be Aircel, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Reliance Jio Infotel, Reliance Communications (RCom), Tata Teleservices, Uninor and Vodafone.
Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd (SSTL) announced yesterday it will not bid in the auctions because of the high reserve price of the 800MHz band and other unresolved issues with the Department of Telecom (DoT) related to the auction in 2013.
The final list of bidders will be released on 27 February and the auction scheduled for 4 March will now include 2G and 3G spectrum in the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.1GHz bands.
The auctions are important for Vodafone, Idea and RCom because their 900MHz licences expire in certain circles over the next year, the Economic Times said.
The government expects the auction to generate at least INR800 billion ($12.8 billion) in revenue.
The DoT has come under heavy criticism for ignoring complaints from the regulator about the high base price and scarcity of spectrum to be auctioned. The DoT suggested a reserve price for the 3G airwaves 36 per cent higher than the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s recommendation (TRAI) in late December. A DoT panel also raised the reserve price for the 800MHz spectrum by 17 per cent and the 900MHz spectrum by 23 per cent.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) asked the DoT to review the reserve price of the 900MHz spectrum to be sold, complaining that the price was too high and could lead to higher mobile rates, slowing the government’s Digital India initiative. TRAI has made similar requests regarding the 3G spectrum base price.
The DoT agreed in December to expand the auction to include 3G spectrum after pressure from TRAI and operators for the government to make more spectrum available.
Telenor and Vodafone last year joined local operators in calling for the Indian government to release much-needed spectrum to ensure the country’s mobile operators can keep up with soaring demand.