Reliance stays out of 2G auctions

After the enormous build-up about its likely foray into voice telephony, Reliance Industries (RIL) decided to stay away from the forthcoming 2G auctions. The last day for submitting applications ended on Friday. Given that RIL didn't bid for broadband wireless licences either in 2010, and chose to buy HFCL's licences, this doesn't necessarily mean RIL's interest in voice telephony is over.

A surprise entrant, in this connection, is Videocon, which is expected to bid for 17 circles for GSM spectrum and 10 circles in the CDMA band.

Videocon had got 20 GSM circles during former telecom minister A Raja's tenure and its licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court. But unlike some of the others like Uninor, Videocon made little attempt to even roll out its network ó indeed, the telecom regulator recommended cancellation of all its 20 licences for not rolling out even the minimum network.

Another surprise thrown up in the pre-bid process is RCom deciding to stay out completely.

Though other incumbents have all indicated they will participate in the bidding, their level of interest seems proportionate to the amount of spectrum they already hold.

Bharti Airtel has the highest amount of spectrum, an average of 7.59 MHz across the country in the 2G band, another 5 MHz of 3G spectrum in 13 circles as well as 20 MHz of BWA spectrum in 8 circles after buying the ones Qualcomm had. Bharti Airtel, sources say, has submitted its bank guarantees for just 4-5 circles, and probably the low-value C circles.

While the auction for the GSM band of 1800 MHz begins on November 12 , for the 800 MHz band the auction is scheduled to commence two days after the one for 1800 MHz ends. The base price of the auctions has been fixed at Rs 14,000 crore for a chunk of 5MHz spectrum in the GSM band.

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