The government is expected to start allotting third generation (3G) spectrum from today to successful bidders to meet the 1 September deadline promised to the industry. However, actual rollout of the services, which will give subscribers access to services such as video calling, interactive gaming and high-speed internet using phones, is unlikely before December.
Although there is no official confirmation so far, reports say the department of telecommunications (DoT) will also start the process of amending the unified access service licence (UASL) licence agreements from Wednesday today. Once that is done the frequency bands can be used by operators.
The development comes as a happy surprise to operators, as nobody really expected the government to meet its 1 September deadline.
The defence forces had already released two slots of 3G spectrum before the auction, while a third slot is to be released soon. The forces have got a waiver of almost Rs10,000 crore for spectrum charges, which was a key demand for them to vacate of 3G spectrum.
The 3G auction was held in April-May this year, earning the government windfall revenues of over Rs67,000 crore. A total of Rs1.06 lakh crore was earned from both the 3G and broadband wireless access or WiFi spectrum auction.
None of the operators was able to bag pan-India 3G spectrum. The country's top two mobile firms, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications (RCom, each had won 3G airwaves in 13 of the 22 telecom zones on offer, while major operators Aircel, Vodafone Essar, Idea Cellular and Tata Telecom won a total of 13, nine, 11 and nine circles respectively.