3G auction ends
After the tremendous hype, hoopla, 34 days and 183 rounds of aggressive bidding by nine players, the 3G auctions drew to a close on Wednesday after raking in a whopping Rs 67,719 crore for the government. The 3G bounty is almost double the original estimates of Rs 30,000 crore by telecom minister A Raja and more recently,Rs 36,000 crore by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Effectively, this translates into Rs 16,750.6 crore for a single pan-India slot of 3G spectrum. The government auctioned three pan-India 3G slots with additional spectrum in Punjab, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and J&K. BSNL & MTNL were already allocated 3G spectrum a year ago. They did not bid, but will now have to pay the 3G auction price for their spectrum holding. Vodafone, Bharti and Reliance bagged the plum Mumbai and Delhi circles for a whopping Rs 3,247.1 crore and Rs 3,316.9 crore respectively. Bharti, Reliance and Aircel won 13 circles each, Idea 11, and Vodafone and the Tatas 9 each. S Tel got three circles while Etisalat and Videocon did not win any. Spectrum will be allocated to operators in September and it is likely the 3G services will be rolled out by Diwali. So, by Diwali, cash from 3G and the ensuing broadband auctions should be flowing into government coffers. The consumer also gets to be king, with additional choice and superior voice quality.3G services,for the most part, will be used for voice, as is the case with 2G spectrum. They will also be used substantially for SMSes. It is in large cities like Mumbai and Delhi that 3G is expected to first deliver advanced services, multimedia, videos and other hitech offerings whose biggest consumers are expected to be from the business community and educated youth.