India 2G auction ‘not possible’ by 31 August


India’s plan to re-auction 2G spectrum by the end of August is in tatters, after the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) inter-ministerial group (IMG) on Friday concluded it would not be possible to complete the process by the 31 August deadline.

Chief among the IMG’s concerns, according to a report by the Business Standard, is that the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) charged with defining the auction rules has still yet to agree on a base price, as well as rollout obligations for operators.
An initial set of rules setting out the frequencies to be auctioned was released earlier this week. Eight chunks of 1800-MHz spectrum and three chunks of 800-MHz spectrum will be put on the block.
However, India’s government can only appoint an auctioneer once all the guidelines have been established.
“The selected auctioneer would need some time to prepare the auction design due to its complexity,” said government sources in a separate report by the PTI. “Further, compliance certification will be required. Hence, it would not be possible to meet the SC (Supreme Court) set deadline.”
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in February to cancel 122 telco licences issued in 2008, the government warned that re-auctioning spectrum could take up to 400 days, marking March 2013 as a provisional timeframe for completing the process. However, the Supreme Court dismissed the government’s claim and ordered it to conduct the auction by 31 August.
Contributing to the government’s woes has been its inability to appoint a minister to oversee the EGoM.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was put in charge initially but stepped down to contest the presidential elections. His replacement, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar quit after three days on grounds that he did not want to be dragged into any controversy stemming from the auction process.