Another day and another twist in the long-delayed, much altered Indian 3G auction process is revealed. According to the Economic Times foreign participation in the upcoming sale will be restricted to UMTS spectrum only, with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology reportedly making the decision. Critics have claimed that the move is designed to ensure that international companies are kept from bidding in the auctions, while others have noted that the move may be a bid to block new foreign players from launching both 2G and 3G CDMA-based services.
The ministry has however said in its defence that foreign operators are not being allowed to bid for 3G CDMA spectrum as a result of the scarcity of airwaves for that technological platform. In an internal note by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) which will be included in the Notice Inviting Application (NIA), the ministry said: ‘Only existing licensees offering CDMA services will be eligible to bid. Several operators have raised [a] query as to why eligibility is restricted to existing universal access service licence (UASL) licence holders. This is because, this spectrum is being provided as 3G growth path for CDMA operators. This has been approved by the ministry of communications and IT earlier.’