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India will begin the auction for the 3G spectrum on April 9,2010

India will begin the auction for the much-anticipated 3G spectrum on April 9,2010, the government has stated. Applications from prospective bidders are open until March 19. Pre-qualified bidders will be announced on March 30, followed by mock auctions on April 5 and 6.

Two days following the completion of the 3G bandwidth auction, the sale of broadband wireless access services will begin.

Despite the promising news, operators and analysts can be excused if feeling somewhat sceptical if the auction will actually take place, as the auctions have already been delayed three times since the original date of January 16, 2009. The postponements were due to internal government disputes over pricing and availability of spectrum.

The government hopes the expected INR 350 billion (US$7.6 billion) in revenues from the 3G auction will help stem its fiscal deficit, which has reached a 16-year high.

Analysts estimate individual operators could outlay between US$1-1.5 billion for India-wide spectrum, while the actual 3G network rollout could cost billions more. The country's top three operators - Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone Essar, have all indicated their appetite for a slice of the 3G pie, while Telenor's Uninor has also showed interest in 3G licences for specific circles. We will keep an eye on the outcome.

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