India’s long-awaited and oft-delayed auction of 3G spectrum will definitely happen next month, according to the country’s telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja. Although scheduled for January 14, 2010, there had been fears recently that this date would be pushed back once again. Not so, according to Raja. “Auction will be according to the schedule. Allotment of spectrum to maintain the level playing field will be by August 2010,” Raja told reporters after a meeting of a ministerial panel on spectrum, noted Reuters. “Allotment to the four service providers will be simultaneous,” he added. State-owned operators BSNL and MTNL already own 3G spectrum, with rivals such as Bharti and Vodafone fighting it out for the new allotment.
India is the world’s fastest-growing – and second-largest – mobile market. The auctions for licenses to operate 3G services and WiMAX wireless broadband services will earn India about 250 billion rupees (US$5.3 billion), Raja said in August. Interestingly, there is still some debate over what the spectrum will be used for; some Indian operators believe there is no business case for mobile broadband in the country and will instead use the spectrum to improve voice services.