Airtel, Vodafone, and Rival Reliance Firms Among 8 Vying to Buy Spectrum

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Airtel, Vodafone, and Rival Reliance Firms Among 8 Vying to Buy Spectrum
Telecom firms of Ambani brothers Mukesh and Anil as well as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea are among the eight companies vying to buy spectrum in the biggest ever auction that may fetch the government about Rs. 1 lakh crore.

The government plans to sell the 2G and 3G radiowaves in an auction scheduled to start from March 4.

At the close of applications Monday for participating in the auction, eight telecom companies including Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications, Uninor, Aircel and Tata Teleservices have applied.

However, Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd (SSTL), a potential buyer of CDMA spectrum, opted out citing high price and legal issues with the DoT. Videocon Telecom did not submit its application either.

A Department of Telecom official said: "Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Aircel, Reliance Jio Infocom, Uninor and Tata Teleservices have submitted forms."

Most of the spectrum being put up for the auction is presently held by Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Telecom. Their licences are expiring in 2015-16.

Idea Cellular's 9 circles, 6 circles of Airtel and 7 circles each of Vodafone and Reliance Telecom are coming up for renewal.

Overall there are 29 licences in 18 service areas which expire in 2015-16. These licences hold 184MHz spectrum in the 900MHz band and 34.2MHz in 1800MHz band.

It is mandatory for these companies to bid for spectrum if they have to continue offering mobile and other telecom services as their permit is expiring.

An SSTL spokesperson said the company has "consistently maintained that the pricing of 800MHz spectrum at Rs. 3,646 crore per MHz, is way out of line and does not merit a strong business case for buying additional spectrum".

It has also approached the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal seeking directions against the DoT for reassignment/ rearrangement of the blocks/ frequencies of liberalised spectrum allotted to SSTL during the auction held in March, 2013 in 8 circles for its CDMA services.

However, participation of Reliance Jio Infocomm, Uninor, Tata Teleservices and Aircel has enhanced the chances of aggressive bidding in the auction, which may fetch the government around Rs. 1 lakh crore.

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