DoT willing to hike 3G bid price
Posted by telcobizpedia on June 12, 2009
12 Jun 2009, 0126 hrs IST, Joji Thomas Philip & Sandeep Gurumurthi, ET Now
NEW DELHI: The communications ministry is set to tell the Union Cabinet that it is open to increasing the reserve price for the auctions of pan-India third generation (3G) spectrum to Rs 3,540 crore and auction up to eight slots of 3G spectrum. As per the existing 3G policy unveiled by the communications ministry late last year, the reserve price for pan-India 3G spectrum is Rs 2,020 crore and accommodating five players per circle.
The department of telecom is of the view that hiking the reserve price for these airwaves will ensure that the finance ministry does not put up any fresh roadblocks for the upcoming 3G auctions, which is vital for high-end services such as video conferencing and high speed internet on mobile handsets. Spectrum is the airwaves on which telecom signals travel and is the lifeline for all telcos.
This comes as the Union Cabinet is set to consider the proposal for the auction of radio bandwidth for third-generation (3G) mobile services within the next two weeks, rather than routing it through a group of ministers (GoM), fast-tracking the much-delayed process.
The DoT will also tell the Cabinet that the total number of players who will be allotted 3G spectrum can be raised from the current five to about seven to eight per circle. The move is aimed at addressing the concerns of the finance ministry which fears that a lower base price would result in the government failing to meet its targets of raising about Rs 40,000 crore for these auctions.
Increasing the number of slots will lead to higher revenues from the auctions as this will enable more Indian operators and also players from abroad to bag these airwaves. At the same time, the DoT in its note to the Cabinet will also state that even as it open to hiking the reserve price, it prefers to retain the base price at 2,020 crore as specified under the existing 3G policy.
The DoT’s logic behind the Rs 3,540 crore figure is that it is between the Rs 2,020 crore suggested by the DoT and the and the Rs 4,040 crore demanded by the finance Ministry. The DoT has arrived at this figure (Rs 3,540 crore) by doubling the reserve price for Delhi, Mumbai and category A circles and increasing it 1.5 times for Kolkata and category B circles retaining the current base price for category C circles, according to a top executive in the communications ministry.
As per the 3G policy, the base price for metros and category A circles such as Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra is Rs 160 crore, while that for category B circles is 80 crore and Rs 30 crore for Category C regions totalling up to Rs 2,020 crore. The cabinet may look into the proposal within two weeks, communications and IT minister A Raja had told ET on Wednesday after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “The communications ministry has already prepared a Cabinet note detailing all issues associated with the 3G auctions. We plan to present this note to the Cabinet soon,” Mr Raja had added.
If the Cabinet approves the ministry’s proposal in its current format, the 3G auctions will be held within three months, opening the gates for high-end services such as video-conferencing and high speed internet on mobile handsets. On the other hand, routing the process through a GoM would involve a delay of several months since there will have to be a consensus between all ministers of the group before it can be sent to the Cabinet.
Earlier this year, the communications ministry had sought Cabinet approval for 3G auctions, but the latter could not clear the same as the finance ministry had objected to this proposal and demanded that the floor price be doubled. Further, differences between several ministries over the floor price for the auction of 3G airwaves and also over the number of players to be allowed to offer these high-end services in an area had forced the Cabinet to refer the matter to a group of ministers just prior to the general elections.
The auctions could not be held prior to the polls as GoM failed to meet to find a solution to these issues. In fact, the GoM did not even meet once to discuss the 3G auctions. The issue then got further complicated as the planning commission, the department of industrial policy and promotion and the IT ministry opposed doubling of the base price.
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