The Indian government has significantly raised the prices of its 3G licenses and says it plans to start the long-delayed auction within the next three months. Associated Press reports that a panel of ministers announced yesterday that the reserve price for the new licenses will be set at INR35 billion (US$716 million). The price is a sharp increase on the INR20.20 billion originally proposed by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). “The government will complete the auction of 3G spectrum within three months and expects to raise INR250 billion [from the sale],” India’s Telecom Minister Andimuthu Raja told reporters.

The auction of 3G spectrum in the one of the world’s largest and fastest growing mobile markets has already been postponed twice, and the delay has led to fears that many of the current generation networks are fast approaching saturation. India aims to sell four 3G licenses and three mobile broadband licenses in 20 of the 22 telecom zones in the country. However, some mobile operators have criticised the high costs involved in obtaining pan-Indian 3G spectrum. “The right price should have been the TRAI recommended price of INR20.20 billion,” said SC Khanna, secretary general of a group representing the Indian operators.