US telecom major AT&T and the world’s largest chip maker, Intel, were among the foreign players that showed interest today in the pre-bid conference for third generation (3G) spectrum, which kick-started the process for the 3G auction in the country.
The conference was dominated by existing players, such as Vodafone Essar, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications, as well as new players like Uninor, STel and Datacom (which are yet to launch their mobile operations). Several of these companies had already made public their intention of participating in the auction.
The pre-bid conference was organised by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to address the concerns and queries of all the interested telecom players. However, several key issues were left unresolved, including whether the auction would be conducted for all the four slots in every telecom circle or only for those slots where spectrum was available.
“DoT would specify the available frequency and number of slots for 3G auction on December 8, when it would come out with a notice inviting applications. If the defence forces are able to vacate the spectrum by then, we would go ahead with the auction of all the four slots. Otherwise, only available spectrum would be auctioned,” DoT Joint Secretary J S Deepak told reporters.
The defence forces had earlier said they would vacate the spectrum by June 2010.
“The department would allot spectrum within 15 days after the completion of the 3G auction process. So, there would not be any waiting period for successful bidders,” Deepak added.
Another issue of concern to the telecom service providers was whether DoT would go ahead and award new licences to successful bidders in the 3G auction, as already many 2G mobile licences are pending before the department. Here, DoT had no answer.
For WiMax and other broadband services, DoT is looking at the feasibility of the 700-MHz frequency. It had already earmarked 2.1 GHz and 2.3 GHz for the WiMax auction. The government would also conduct auction for CDMA players in the 800-MHz band, along with WiMAX auction.
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Jaitley, however, cautioned things may go from bad to worse if the country gave a fractured mandate in the ensuing general elections