The much-awaited and long-delayed auction of spectrum for the third-generation mobile telephone service will be held on April 9.

The Department of Telecommunications will kick-start the process on Thursday, inviting applications from prospective bidders.

The last date for submitting applications will be March 19, says a government notification. The government expects Rs. 35,000 crore from the auction. While the pre-qualification of bidders will take place on March 30, mock auctions will be held on April 5 and 6.

In the past, the auction was deferred twice, even after the date was announced. All majors such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications and Tatas have readied their plans for the auction.

The auction was delayed over differences among government departments over the pricing of wireless radio spectrum and its availability for auctioning. However, the issues were later resolved, Communications and IT Minister, A. Raja said.

Though the quantum of the spectrum available is still not clear, there are indications that three slots may be put on the block in most circles, while a few areas may have enough air waves to accommodate four players.

Last week, the Law Ministry gave the NIA its approval, paving the way for the government to go ahead with the auction. The DoT has, however, dropped a clause in the NIA, which said the government would refund the bid amount in case the auctioned spectrum was not allocated by September 1, 2010.

More In: National | News | Business