NEW DELHI Nov 12 A sale of Indian 2G mobile
phone airwaves opened to a muted response on Monday, with no
bidding seen for some of the telecommunications zones on offer
in the auction that has been criticised by carriers as too
India is for the first time selling second-generation mobile
spectrum through an auction after the Supreme Court ordered the
revoking of permits granted to eight carriers in a
scandal-tainted process in 2008.
"There are no bidders in some circles," said a senior
government official who declined to be named.
Media reports said there were no offers in some of the top
circles, including the expensive Delhi and Mumbai zones, after
the first two rounds of bidding.
Five operators - Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Group
Plc's local unit, Norway's Telenor ASA,
Videocon Telecommunications, part of India's Videocon Industries
, and Idea Cellular - had applied to
participate in the auction.
Norwegian telecommunications group Telenor needs to win
spectrum in the auction to continue operations in India, the
world's second-biggest mobile phone market, as it is set to lose
all its permits.
Idea Cellular, set to lose seven of its licences, has to win
them back to retain its pan-India presence.
The government had set a bid starting price of 140 billion
rupees ($2.6 billion) for 5 megahertz of airwave space in all of
India's 22 telecommunications zones. The base price was more
than seven times what carriers paid in 2008.
The finance ministry had initially estimated the auction
would raise 400 billion rupees, betting on it to rein in its
high fiscal deficit.
Indian mobile phone market leaders Bharti Airtel and
Vodafone India, which are not affected by the court order, are
taking part in the auction to buy additional spectrum.
The muted response to the 2G auction is in contrast to the
sale of 3G airwaves that the government held in 2010, which
lasted more than a month. India raised more than $12 billion
from that auction.
(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Additional reporting and
writing by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Alex Richardson)