The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has suggested a base price of INR27.2 billion ($425 million) per megahertz for the 3G spectrum to be auctioned next month.

The price for the pan-India 2.1GHz spectrum is almost 20 per cent below what operators paid in 2010 but is four times higher than the reserve price at that time, the Economic Times reported.

The auction, which is scheduled for 23 February, will now include almost 400MHz of new spectrum – 60MHz of 2G and 330MHz of 3G – as well as about 180MHz of existing spectrum that will be re-auctioned, the Times said.

The cabinet has now cleared the sale of 99.2MHz of 1.8GHz spectrum in 15 regions, 177.8MHz in the 900MHz band in 17 service areas, 103.75MHz of 800MHz (2G used by CDMA operators) in all 22 regions, and 85MHz in the 2.1GHz band. It is expected to approve the pricing for the 3G spectrum at its next meeting on 15 January. It has already approved the reserve price for the three 2G bands.

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has agreed to expand the auction to include 3G airwaves after pressure from TRAI and operators for the government to make more spectrum available.

The DoT initially rejected the call for the 800MHz and 2.1GHz bands to be auctioned because the additional spectrum was unlikely to be released in time by the military and state-run operators. The Defence Ministry is now expected to vacate 15MHz of 2.1GHz spectrum.

TRAI suggested on 15 October a base price of INR30.04 billion ($595 million) for the 900MHz band and INR21.38 billion as the starting price for the 1.8GHz allotment. For the 800MHz band, it has recommended a base price of INR31.04 billion.

The auction is expected to generate as much as INR800 billion for the government.