India spectrum auction falls short of expectations, SSTL remains on sidelines

22 Oct 2012

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices (TTSL), Telenor and Videocon have filed applications to participate in the upcoming auction of 2G spectrum, the Economic Times reports. Russian-backed Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL), which operates in India under the MTS India banner has opted to stay out of the auction relying on a petition to the Supreme Court and pressure from the Russian government for the restoration of its licences. SSTL said in a statement that it ‘has been unfairly penalised,’ has a strong case and would prefer to wait. Of the eight operators that lost their concessions in February, only four have reapplied; Loop Mobile, Swan Telecom (Etisalat) and STel have joined SSTL in staying out of the auction. Bharti and Vodafone, though unaffected by the mass licence cancellation in February are looking to acquire additional spectrum in five and 17 circles respectively. Meanwhile, Videocon has reportedly applied to bid for GSM spectrum in 17 circles and CDMA frequencies in ten, making it the only operator opting to take part in both auctions. Idea and TTSL are aiming to win back thier lost licences only. To date, no single provider has applied to bid for pan-India spectrum, and no new international bidders have entered the fray. With participation falling short of expectations thanks to the market’s recent regulatory uncertainty, the government is unlikely to meet its target of generating INR450 billion (USD8.33 billion) from the auction.