Fresh spectrum cash target set

New Delhi, Dec. 14: The government today said it expected to earn at least Rs 20,000 crore from the next round of spectrum auction in the 1,800MHz and 900MHz bands.

The Union cabinet yesterday approved the reduction in the base prices.

"With the new base prices, we expect around Rs 20,000 crore for spectrum in 1800MHz and 900MHz that is put on the auction block," telecom secretary R. Chandrashekhar said.

He said the auction was expected to be completed before the end of this fiscal. The government is betting on the revenues from the auction to plug its widening fiscal deficit.

The Centre is also planning to discuss the industry's demand to expand the 880MHz band to support GSM technology. At present, companies such as Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications use the 800-890MHz band to offer only CDMA services.

Last month, GSM operators had asked the department of telecom to let them use the 880MHz band and above as the extended GSM band instead of the present practice of allowing operations to begin from 890MHz onwards.

However, CDMA service providers have opposed the move, with its lobby group ' the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India ' asking telecom minister Kapil Sibal to reject the GSM players' plea.

"No decision has been taken on this issue. We are planning to take up a proper examination and consultation process soon," officials said.

The government yesterday cut the spectrum base price in the 1,800MHz band by 30 per cent for Delhi, Mumbai, Karnataka and Rajasthan. The four circles did not receive any bids in the November auctions because of the high price.

The auction of spectrum in the 1800MHz band in the four circles and the 900MHz band in Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta will be held simultaneously.

In last month's auction, the government could raise only Rs 9,407 crore.

"The DoT plans to sell 12 slots of 1.25MHz bandwidth in the 900MHz frequency in the Delhi and Mumbai telecom service areas in the new auction," Chandrashekhar said on the sidelines of an industry event. It also plans to sell 10 slots of 1.25MHz in the 900MHz frequency in Calcutta.

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