The government on Monday said auction for 3G mobile spectrum would commence as per schedule from January 14 next year and allotment would be made to four private players simultaneously by August.

“The Empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) has decided to auction 3G spectrum for four slots as per original schedule,” Telecom Minister A Raja told reporters after an hour-long meeting of the eGoM headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Asked whether the Defence Ministry would vacate the required spectrum, the minister said, “There is a consensus in the eGoM on vacation of spectrum and it would be alloted simultaneously to all the four winners by August 2010.”

The government is estimating to generate Rs 25,000 crore from sale of 3G spectrum, allowing five operators, including state-run BSNL/MTNL which has already been given airwaves.

Earlier the Department of Telecom (DoT) had expressed concern over delay in vacation of spectrum by the Defence Ministry and had suggested, in its note for eGoM meeting, that only three slots should be auctioned.

The government has fixed a reserve price of Rs 3,500 crore for 3G spectrum and Rs 1,750 crore for the Wimax (wireless broadband) services.

Mr. Raja said that it has been decided to allot spectrum simultaneously in August, 2010, to all the winners in order to maintain a level-playing field.

Asked how much spectrum was currently available with the DoT, the Minister declined to give details but said the decision has been taken to sell four slots.

The DoT is also building an alternate optic fibre network for the defence forces at a cost of over Rs 9,500 crore enabling the defence to vacate the spectrum for commercial use.

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